Ruins of Adventure

The Third Party: Session 14 (GMs notes)

16 Hammer

Grimnir, Traithe, Ash, and Dame (the ginger-haired druidess having finally told the party her name), were startled from their research in the library by the sudden shaking of the ground as Mel and Kevorkian played around with the organ. They ran to the chapel to find their two companions vanished, with the sheet music for the ‘Dismissal Fugue’ sitting out on the stand.

They discussed attempting to follow, then decided to look into the crypts and the “blob thing” that Mel had described before he and Kevorkian vanished. They wandered the halls, using their map to following in Kevorkian and the gypsy-boy’s footsteps until they saw the bloated form rising out of the pit in the shrine. Grimnir seemed very interested in the large book they could suspended against the far wall of the room by the thing’s mass.

They returned to the chapel and started experimenting with the music laid out on the organ. Ash sat down to play and, despite the unpleasant droning he urged out of the keyboard, vanished, along with Dame, reappearing in the small water-closet next to the library. A few more attempts from all of the not-so-musically-inclined party members revealed that the transportation was limited to within the complex but was basically random. Worse, each time they played the sounds were accompanied by strong tremors from the ground below.

Grimnir suggested that Ash and Traithe keep trying until they were deposited somewhere on the other side of the room with the blob, then open one of the secret doors indicated on the map and attempt to access the book from that side. After several attempts which landed them in toilets and mass crypts, Ash and Traithe found themselves in a small room with a high ceiling, a single unmarked sarcophagus, and a door with dozens of skeletal fists nailed to it.

Of course the sarcophagus was not empty and the occupant, the petrified remains of a squat, wide man in ornate, petrified, leather armor and a large warmask. Traithe hacked at it, only to receive rather taunting, though urbane, comments—“Your formation is preposterous, why do you not simply give in?” and "There is dignity in surrender.” Ash sent Zorch to grab the thing, only to have Zorch sucked—soul, body, and all—into the thing’s maw. Ash screamed, alerting Mel and Kevorkian who, excused themselves from their conversation with the Red Architect and came running. Mel quickly unlocked the door allowing Ash and Traithe to make a hasty withdraw from the room. Traithe and Kevorkian then held the door shut to allow it to be re-locked.

They made their way up the hall to the other side of the room with the blob-thing and Ash sent a message to Grimnir informing him that they had finally made it. Traithe threw open the door and Grimnir immediately tried to kick the book out of the room using a series of repelling blasts. Grimnir missed the books, but managed to eject a thirty-foot core sample of the gelatinous monster and the orbs floating in it out into the hallway where Traithe and the others were standing—shattering many of the orbs and sending numerous small slug-like spirits scurrying up the hallway.

Traithe set to work electrocuting the escaping souls via witchbolts. Seeing that Grimnir missed the book, Mel charged the room and, using the semi-solid surface of the thing as a wall, chimneyed up the back wall and grabbed the book. Dame lit the thing (and everything else in the room) up with faerie fire. Now presented with a larger and clearer target, Grimnir blasted Mel out of the room—book and all—and Kevorkian slammed the door.

The blob, awakened, turned its attention to Grimnir and Dame in the opposite corridor, spewing a stream of liquefied time over the two of them, freezing them solid. They quickly thawed and Grimnir teleported himself over to join the others. Dame ran for the organ and played the ‘Dismissal Fugue’ again, landing her in the Red Architect’s room, where she was drawn, apparently rather reluctantly, into a conversation with the undead lady—who was rather non-complimentary about Dame’s social skills.

The others wandered back in that direction, but when Grimnir saw the shadows in the Architect’s chambers moving independently, he snatched Dame out of the room and slammed the door. They continued to converse with the Architect, though Ash and Grimnir insisted that they do it through the door—Grimnir pointing out that Nazir An-azat was a well-known name in Hell and an ally of the infernal lord known commonly as ‘The Betrayer’ (often confused with ‘The Betrayer in Battle’, who may or may not be a distinct entity).

Trading story for story, they learned a bit of the history of the place: The original plan to awaken the ‘god’ that sleeps below the mountain, which she alternately referred to as ’Duvan’ku’ and ‘Aurgelmr’. How the first sacrifice became the ‘parasite’, collecting all the sacrificed souls meant for the god. How the Parasite was near the breaking point of becoming a god in its own right—and that it would be a very bad thing, for them, if anyone else were to die in this place. How she made a pact with hell to betray her former master (though she gave little in the way of details for this one), and how she was trapped in this place until willingly freed by a living, mortal human.

As Grimnir and the Red Architect chatted for over an hour, the others rested to recuperate from their encounter with the Parasite and Kevorkian and Ash set about translating the book. The title read The Million Violations and appeared to record, in disturbing detail, all of the Noga’s crimes against the gods and men. The two skimmed through the codex, looking for references to the acts of the Red Architect, only to be stricken with feeble mindedness from the experience—reduces to babbling imbeciles. Kevorkian prayed to the god(s) of Kryptgarten and was healed, but retained no recollection of the contents of the book.

17 Hammer

The party rested longer while Kevorkian and Ash recovered from their mind-numbing ordeal and then discussed what to do about the souls trapped in the Parasite, enumerating several possible options, none of which seemed good:

  1. Allow the souls to pass to Aurgelmr, awakening him and probably destroying the world.
  2. Allow the souls to remain with the Parasite, giving birth to some new, unknown god of evil.
  3. Deliver the book of names to one of the Dukes of Hell, allowing them to claim the souls and add them to the armies of the Blood War.
  4. Free the souls from the orbs entrapping them and destroy them as they come out, probably sending the remnants on to the fugue-plains of Hades where they would be added to the hordes of the fiendish Yugoloth.
  5. Kill the Parasite and allow the souls to inhabit and animate their bodies buried on the mountain, creating a legion of potentially millions of the undead.
  6. Find some way to siphon off and collect the souls and use their power for the party’s own benefit.
  7. Destroy both the bodies and the Parasite, but leave the souls intact and allow them to go on to their apportioned afterlife—which would probably have results similar to some mix of 1, 3, and 4, but with less predictability.

Unable to think of any positive options, and, with Grimnir’s prodding, leaning towards giving the souls to Hell, the party decided to question the other ‘Greater Repugnancies’ buried in complex in the hopes of getting better information.

Their next stop was the lone unbarred door at the end of the hallway, which bore a carving of a man holding up an infant that had been pierced by eight swords. Within they found the ‘Blessed Afflictor, Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus’ embalmed sitting upright on his war-throne. He greeted them amicably and invited them to rest freely in his chambers. The corpse explained that he was bound until such time as a living, mortal human invited him to once again lead the armies of this place on the field of battle as a result of his ‘betrayal’ by the Architect. He explained that he had had a change of heart with regards to the Nogese plan to awaken Duvan’ku—having grown attached to this world—and had lead his last army against his king, Vinjarek, in an attempt to stop the sacrifices and prevent the world-ending intent of the program. The Red Architect had somehow caused his army to turn on him, delivering him into her hands and then binding him to this mausoleum cum prison. He said he had overheard their discussion without and would aid them in destroying the Red Architect and the Parasite, and then raise up the dead of the mountain as a means of keeping the souls of the sacrificed from Duvan’ku.

After some negotiation, the party decided to go with option “5” above, with the assistance of the Blessed Afflictor—asking him to lead the undead army that would be created away from the mountain. They asked the Blessed Afflictor to remain in his chambers—or rather, refrained from letting him out—and went to corroborate his story with the others, leaving Mel behind as ‘insurance’ (knowing that if they took too long the crazy gypsy would probably free the Afflictor for the fun of it).

First they met the Testifier. Ash vowed “To bring honor to the house of Ellindir and restore it to it’s former glory,” and Grimnir swore to “Protect this reality and destroy the god Tyr.” Then they asked him to enumerate all of the oaths ever made by those entered in the complex.

18 Hammer

Twenty-four hours later, they came out of the trance of listening to this enforcer of vows, to realize that they could interpret very little of his archaic pronouncements. Instead they asked for a list only of those vows that currently bound the ‘Greater Repugnancies’.

He informed them that the Twin Inquisitors had sworn “to string up the Slaughterer from the Oak of Judgement by his own entrails”, and that all of the Greater Repugnancies were bound by the oath of the Red Architect’s curse to not leave their crypts until such time as “a living, mortal human requested that the Blessed Afflictor lead the armies of this place on the field of battle”. He explained that his role was simply as an enforcer of oaths under the laws of Hell, and that he neither knew nor cared why the oaths were made. He also explained that, should they be freed, he desired to see the destruction of the Red Architect as she was an oathbreaker, due “one million, one hundred and eleven thousand, one hundred and eleven years of torment”.

Next they visited the ‘Exalted Interrogator’, an ancient corpse wrapped in petrified bandages which cracked and crumbled as it moved, who asked each of them their reasons for coming to this place. Once satisfied with the truth of their answers, he informed them that the Blessed Afflictor never lied but that the Red Architect seldom told the truth. When the ascertained that his primary motivation was the punishment of those who speak lies, Grimnir quickly informed him of the perceived duplicity of Markos Mondaviak and the other council-members.

Sufficiently satisfied, and now knowing the scope of the undead-on-undead free-for-all that would result from freeing the Blessed Afflictor, they made their way back to his chambers. After some very brief negotiations and Traithe formally inviting him to lead the armies of the Noga once more on the field of battle, the Blessed Afflictor lead the way out and went directly to the chambers of the Testifier where he swore:

“I Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus hereby inculcate this oath to never, by means direct or indirect, nor by inaction, cause harm the mortals I now look upon, who are known by the names Grimnir Gylfaginning, Arasheth Ellindir, Elaira Nightfall, Kevorkian, Dame, and Melastasya. Second, I swear to obey any order given to me by one of these mortals, save where those orders would bring harm to any of those so named, and to extend the execution of any such orders to all those forces under my command. Last, I swear that if any and all of these mortals are by some means destroyed, I shall immediately take myself and all forces under my command to the Celestial Staircase in the city of Dekon Thar atop Mount Duvan’ku and thence commit myself and all such forces to the side of Hell in the eternal struggle known as the Blood War, until either time or our existence shall end.
For these concessions, I request the following oath from my mortal masters: That they swear to aid Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus in his flight from this consecrated mountain, and to protect his safety until such time as he is transported to a place occupied by no less than eight thousand and eight living and mortal human souls.”

His oath sworn, he placed his hand on the head of the Testifier, who crumbled, and handed the Skull of the Testifier to Grimnir. Grimnir swore the requested oath to aid the Praetor in his escape from the mountain and convey him to a human city, then passed the skull around the party. All save Melastasya so swore and the skull was returned to Grimnir’s care.

Stepping out into the hall, they saw the Red Architect coming forth bearing her bronze lantern and sending all the shadows in the hallway to dancing free from those who cast them, and the Twin Inquisitors rushing across the hall from their tomb to assault the Slaughterer.

The eyes of the Testifier’s skull flashed and the ground beneath the Architect’s feet opened up. Grimnir managed to snatch her lantern with a thorn whip and pass it to Dame just before Nazir An-Azat, the Red Architect, was pulled down into the flaming pits of Baator by hundreds of devilish hands. The party then rushed to the aid of the Slaughterer and were joined by the Exalted Interrogator.

The female Inquisitor, Eizethrat Nexx was a huge, pale woman with a somber, defeated expression and undead fetuses crawling in and out of her mouth. Her husband and brother, Gorgulos Nexx was an equally enormous man with the skin around his ribcage rotted away and maggots the size of cats writhing within in him and chewing his skin. The Slaughterer held his own, his armor sprouting new spikes, blades, and flutes with every strike landed on him, but seemed unable to harm his assailants with his undead, life-draining powers.

Ash levitated Eizethrat into the air, pinioning her against the ceiling where she was repeatedly buffeted by Grimnir’s force blasts and the Blessed Afflictor’s telekinetic powers. Traithe summoned grease which sent Gorgulos sliding to the ground where Mel and the Slaughterer proceeded to pound on him. Swarms of maggots and undead fetuses crawled over the two of them, but seemed unable to harm either.

The Interrogator encouraged Grimnir to “get them talking” and, in response to Grimnir’s subsequent taunting, Eizethrat, still floating on the ceiling cried “We cannot be defeated.” This, of course, was obviously false and the mere words in the presence of the Interrogator caused her flesh to begin melting away.

In the end, Ash ignited the grease on the floor around Gorgulos, burning away what was left of his maggoty bulk, and Grimnir crushed Eizethrat against the ceiling by launching the lid of the sarcophagus at her.

The battle over, both the Interrogator and the Slaughterer touched the skull of the testifier and repeated the Blessed Afflictor’s oath not to harm the party directly, indirectly, or through inaction, and renewed their oaths of obedience.

With their new undead allies in tow, the party then headed to go dispose of the Parasite…

To be continued

The Amazons: Session 4

Battle Cry awoke with a gasp and a scream. Four of her sisters in arms leaned over her with worried looks on their faces. “What happened?” she croaked out through her still raw and bloodied throat.

“You were killed…” Had Enough said.

“…?” Battle Cry replied.

“Princess too,” Hot Flanks added. “The white crocodile thing did it. We had the potion for you, but Princess…” she broke down sobbing, unable to continue.

Don’t Fail picked up where she left off, “We were waiting for you to wake up before burying her. We thought you might want to do the honors of sending her on.”

Battle Cry tried to sit up, but only ended up back on her back, wracked with pain as she coughed up more blood. She could feel the regenerative powers of the potion working, so she willed herself to remain still until the fit had stopped. “No!” she finally said emphatically. “Everyone break out your purses, her time here is not done.”

“The Bishop?” Had Enough asked.

“Yes,” Battle Cry coughed again, but there was no blood this time. “Tyr is an ally, his priests cannot refuse a fervent request to see justice done.” She tried to sit up again, then whispered, “Help please…”

Worthy of Armor and Hot Flanks each put an hand under her arms and held her between them. “Good,” said Worthy. “We’ll pool out funds to get our friend raised, then go back to the keep and finish the job.”

“Yes,” said Don’t Fail. “Councilwoman Mondaviak passed us a letter from one of the citizens of Kryptgarten. He says they can make sure the back passage is open to aid us in taking the keep.”

“Fuck the keep,” Battle Cry croaked. “We have no time for lands or politics, this is matter of vengeance, and Hoar’s vengeance will not be delayed.” She coughed a few more times wincing, then continued. “Once Princess is back on her feet, I will ask Hoar where these criminals are hiding, and we will go kill them.”

“Hear, hear!” Hot Flanks and Had Enough both agreed.

“Alright,” Worthy of Armor said, “to the temple of Tyr’s Waiting then.”

Roughly four hours later, Princess woke up to find all of her friends leaning over her, along with a fat, bearded old man in a funny hat. She was whole, awake, and just as confused as Battle Cry had been. The party quickly filled her in on the nature of her recently dead condition and Battle Cry’s plan to track down Squire Grimnir. “Fuck yes!” she said, “The Handsome Prince is so going to kill that guy.”

She was less enthused to learn that the party had spent all but a small pittance of their accumulated wealth to pay to have her raised from the dead and to regrow Hot Flank’s lost hand. “Really? All of it?” This finally made her cry. “Can’t we at least claim the bounty on these guys heads then?”

“No!” Battle Cry said emphatically, “This is a matter of Hoar’s vengeance now. They killed one of ours, so we kill them all…” Battle Cry bowed to the Bishop, “I have need of a prayer room.” The Bishop assented and she stomped out. “I’m going to find them. Meet me in the ladies’ dormitory at dawn.”

After a long night of railing against unrighted wrongs, unsolved crimes, and unavenged evils, and pleading for Hoar’s intervention, Battle Cry arrived red-eyed at the Tyrran dormitory where the girls were staying after their ‘generous donation’ to the church. “Found them,” she said through a yawn. “Almost due north, in a cave on a snow-capped mountain peak, with a lake at the bottom of the cliff-face…”

“What the…!” Had Enough said.

“The Dragonspines.” Don’t Fail said. “Though this is a rough time of year to be mountain climbing…”

“Sounds like the perfect place for fugitives to be hiding. Remote, uninhabited…”

“Even in good weather it’d take a week to get there.” Hot Flanks groaned. “How did they move so fast. They must have left before the notice of their crimes was even put out.”

“So they might not know that they’re being hunted?” Princess remarked. “Perfect! The better to surprise them in their cave and stab them repeatedly.”

“We’ll need horses. For all of us. Plus supplies, pack animals, weather gear, climbing gear…” Don’t Fail started to look worried.

“Can I help you dears?” The thin, white-haired, old priestess in charge of the dormitories asked. “I couldn’t help but overhear your friend shouting in the middle of the night. Sounds like you’ve got quite the quest on your hands.”

Battle Cry nodded, “Indeed Sister…”

“Theymr.” The priestess nodded. “The Council writ against these criminals you speak of bears the Bishop’s own seal and calls for the heads of the traitors. Normally our Lord Grimjaws frowns on those seeking to take justice into their own hands, but your concern about seeing justice done is admirable.”

“How can you help?” Don’t Fail asked.

“Why, just give me a list of what you’ll be needing and I’ll send my sisters to fetch it.” Sister Theymr said. “Tyr’s will and that of your own gods seem to be right in line on this one.”

The ladies thanked Sister Theymr profusely. By mid-day, the priestess of Tyr had acquired all they needed—requisitioning mounts, pack animals, warm clothes, tents, provisions, and tools for surviving winter in the mountains.

They rode out at once.

Even with horses, or perhaps, especially with horses, the going was slow. They stayed as close to the river as their senses of smell would allow, fighting their way through the deep snow and the biting cold. As Worthy of Armor reminded them, “There is a reason wars are always put on hold in the winter…”

“At least they probably won’t be going anywhere,” Princess suggested.

Battle Cry, again, got the worst of it. Each night she sat before the fire, loudly decrying the evils of the Squire of Kryptgarten and praying for Hoar to guide the way, and during the day she road slumped in her saddle, barely able to keep her eyes open.

On their third day out from Phlan, a storm picked up from the north. The wind blew head-on into their faces, stinging their eyes and biting their cheeks with airborne ice crystals. Now and again, when the wind blew particularly hard, they thought they could hear the sound of an organ playing faintly in the distance. They turned away from the river and sought shelter under the boughs of the Quivering Forest that night.

Some time around midnight, Battle Cry’s howling rancor against her quarry was cut off by another howl. Hearing a second howl, closer, she shook awake the others just as a pack of large, white-furred wolves appeared, circling their campsite.

Battle Cry, apparently not thinking strait due to sleep deprivation, roared and leaped on the nearest wolf, wrapping her arms around its neck and gouging at its eyes with her bare hands. Similarly quick, but still groggy, Hot Flanks and Worthy sprang out of their bedrolls and swung, ineffectively, at the darting wolves.

Two of the wolves charged, snapping at the horses, each taking a great bite out of one horse’s flank. One of them was sent flying away by a powerful kick from Worthy’s of Armor’s horse, ‘Boyfriend’. The wounded horse bucked free of its tether and went fleeing off into the woods, the second wolf on its heels. The remaining horses panicked, straining against their tethers, but were unable to break free.

A third wolf lunged at Princess, but she managed to roll out of her bedroll and plant her sword, ‘Handsome Prince’, deep into the wolf’s side.

The wolf which Battle Cry was holding onto threw back its head and howled, unleashing a burst of icy wind and snow, swirling through the camp, freezing Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail solid under a coating of ice and snow. Had About rose shivering to one knee and laid her sword into the side of the ice- breathing wolf, dealing it a terrible blow.

The fifth, and final, wolf lunged at the frozen Don’t Fail, baring her to the ground and tearing at her hamstring with its teeth, leaving a messy, bloody, frost-rimed wound.

Enraged, Hot Flanks shouted “Down!” and leveled the end of her enchanted club at the center of the clearing and slightly up. “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” she cried, and there was a huge blossom of flames in the air as she, Had Enough, and Worthy of Armor dropped to the ground.

The flames engulfed the wolves, consuming three of them where they stood, and leaving the fourth singed and whimpering. The horses, likewise, stood little chance against the blast of magical flame, and all of them, save Boyfriend and one pack mule were slain. The girls, forewarned and either on-the-ground or shielded by their encasement in magical ice, fared better than the animals, and they were left smoking, but all alive.

As the explosion dissipated, Worthy of Armor rolled to her feat, and, with a mighty cry, chopped off the head of the last wolf with one blow.

Had Enough turned on Hot Flanks, “What were you thinking?! The tents! The provisions?! The horses!! It’s the middle of winter, we’re all wounded, three days ride from the nearest town, and you torch all of our food AND our mounts?!”

“Calm down,” Worthy of Armor pleaded, “her aim was off, but her thinking was sound. One more blast of that icy breath and we would all be dead…” As she spoke Worthy rushed to their three companions, thawed now, but unconscious. She layed hands on each of them, staunching the bleeding and helping with the worst of the burns.

Hot Flanks grabbed her polearm and began turning over the tents, tossing the flaming canvas away from the bedrolls beneath them. “Yeah, shut up and help, Had Enough. Everything close to the ground should be fine if we can put the fires out before they spread too much…”

Working together, the three girls tossed the flaming remains of the tents onto their campfire and sorted out those goods that had not been significantly damaged.

Had Enough finally stopped, panting from their quick work, and looked around. “Okay, so its the middle of winter, three of us down, everyone injured. We have two horses, also injured, bedrolls, no shelter, and enough food for two days…”

“Okay. Yeah. We’re fucked.” Hot Flanks admitted.

“You’re on watch for the rest of the night,” Worthy of Armor said. “Just remember to point those fireballs away from camp if more wolves show up…”

“So what, do we head back to Phlan in the morning?” Hot Flanks asked.

“We’re too far to make it back with what we’ve got and with Battle Cry out we have no idea where we’re going. And with the horses gone we’re not really equipped to drag Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail back to town. I think we should look for defensible shelter nearby, hole up, and try to get the others back on their feet…”

Had Enough looked up from where she was still checking their stores. “I hope you guys like horse meat…”

To be continued

The Third Party: Session 13 (GMs notes)
In which I let things get weird...

14 Hammer, 10:15 am

Melastasya and Kevorkian stood staring around the underground, Nogian chapel, then decided to explore the rest of the compound. They asked Radar (via Grimnir) where the ‘Library’ was and he directed them to the northern/left-hand exit from the chapel.

They passed through the big bronze doors and, of course, through the first right-hand door they encountered. The room was small and filled with petrified wooden cots and footlockers. Kevorkian found an ugly wooden mask on one of the beds, and promptly put it on. Mel grabbed a pick-axe and smashed open the lockers to find nothing of interest—whatever may have been in them had long since decomposed.

Across the hall they encountered another door, this one locked and covered by a sheen of melting ice. Mel opened the lock with little trouble and pushed through into a small antechamber with three more rooms leading off of it. The first was a small lavatory, and, as long-abandoned pre-germ-theory toilets in the subterranean headquarters of ancient murder cults go, it was alright. She spent an inordinate amount of time down in the cesspit, hacking away at the petrified feces. Her tenacity did, eventually, pay off however, as several feet down she encountered a piece of petrified organic waste so old that it had changed into a turd-shaped diamond.

The next room off the antechamber was a bedchamber, filled with petrified, though once nice, furnishings. The two of them searched the room thoroughly. Under the stone pillow, Kevorkian found a lovely gem-encrusted satin glove, which he also put on. Behind a wall panel over the bed, Melastasya found several drawers filled with thousands of small glass spheres, very similar to the enigmatic bauble found in Yarash’s maze (complete with the strong auras of magic and evil), each containing a small model of the mountain peak, along with the graveyard and old petrified shrine.

Kevorkian, ever curious, grabbed one of the spheres and began banging it against the wall. After three tries, the thing smashed, then promptly vanished. Mel seemed to have no memory of him smashing the sphere, but Kevorkian simply chalked that up to her inferior intellect [which was always the case, he was certain].

He explained how the sphere vanished, and Mel, also curious picked up a sphere and examined it closely. Inside she could see a group of tiny figures making their way up the mountain, then watched as one plummeted off a cliff. She, of course, smashed the thing. As before, the pieces vanished, and Kevorkian seemed to have no memory of the act. He did, however, suddenly remember the horrible fate the Grimnir had suffered, and he and Mel spent some time weeping over the loss of their friend who had fallen to his death.

Kevorkian and the young gypsy girl shrugged and began shoveling the remaining spheres into bags to take with them—figuring that if nothing else they might be useful as marbles. Kevorkian had a strange sensation that he had been talking to an old woman just a moment before, but neither he nor Melastasya had any idea who that might have been.

14 Hammer, 11:00 am

Once all the spheres they could carry were collected, they went into the last room off the antechamber to find, an actual Library! The petrified wooden shelves had long-since collapsed, leaving a heaping pile of dust and ancient, crumbling books. Feeling that they needed more time to study, they rushed back to the water clock. Melastasya set the clock forward twelve hours, and vanished. Kevorkian set the clock back twelve hours, and froze time.

15 Hammer, 11:00 pm

Three iterations of clock manipulation later (which is 3 seconds for Melastasya, 3 days for Kevorkian, and 36 hours of real time), Kevorkian, after a brief instance of being blinded, AGAIN, by the first page he looked at, and the rest of the party had managed to glean everything they thought they could from the books. Though most of the items were damaged by time, inexplicably abstruse, or recorded cult activities in code (in addition to all being written in Noga), eleven relatively intact and useful volumes were recovered.

  1. A scroll containing a chant which, when read aloud, would force lycanthropic creatures to remain at a distance of at least 10 feet from the reader. The scroll can be used (and re-used) by anyone able to read and speak Noga, and the effect lasts for as long as the chant is maintained.
  2. A book presenting a theory about how water can be transformed into liquid time, and used to trap souls. It is too vague and theoretical to be of practical use, but is clearly related to the workings of the time-stopping water clock, the spheres of liquified souls, and much of the other strange magics/tech found in the ruins.
  3. “Resonance Of The Bound Spheres”. A small pamphlet containing a Ritual (class-agnostic, spell level agnostic) usable by any spellcaster. The ritual allows the caster to commune with other alternate realities, as per the Contact Other Planes spell, asking up to three questions, but require as a medium a special sphere containing an experimental portion of the alternate reality to be contacted.
  4. A piece of sheet music titled “The Empyreal Hymn” (a slow march with a lot of base)
  5. A piece of sheet music titled “Devour Me” (and upbeat pop song with such catchy lyrics as “Devour me/drown me in your arms/abyssal wyrmwell/fathomless…”).
  6. The “Grimoire of Hybrid Flesh”, which Kevorkian took considerable time reading and thought might be a nice gift for Yarash. It describes methods for fabricating functioning prosthetics from the remains of humanoid limbs.
  7. A Cult record referring to rebuilding the western wall of the kitchen and to the tunnel beyond the High Altar beyond the fountains.
  8. A single page from a crumbled larger tome, containing the ritual names of 10 cultists buried in “The Crypt of the Warriors” and 1 buried in “The Place of Honored Sacrifice”. Melastasya wrote to Sorrassar to confirm that the names were “true and useful”.
  9. A second page from the same book, detailing the names and titles of notables entombed in “The Tombs of the Greater Repugnancies”. Including The Twin Inquisitors, Eizethrat Nexx and Gorgulos Nexx, Vorgen Pox the Slaughterer, Nazir An-Azat the Red Architect, Exalted Interrogator Aetheldredd Aleph, Aervik Narn the Testifier, and The Blessed Afflictor, Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus. It also refers to a rivalry between The Slaughterer, Vorgen Pox and the Twin Inquisitors.
  10. A mostly incomprehensible cult record with a reference to a curse upon those who fail to leave an offering in the coin fountains and those who lie to Aetheldredd Aleph, the Exalted Interrogator.
  11. A mostly incomprehensible book of prophecy or verse. The opening line is "I commandeth the nine million, I commandeth the seventy blasphemies, I speak through the worms in the heart of the Grey-Black Star”. It contains references to “The God Entombed Beneath The Mountain” and “The Symbiote God”, and explains that the souls of the dead are held in the body of the Symbiote God.
  12. map.jpgA map…

After finishing his three-day reading binge, Kevorkian went back to the clock to retrieve Melastasya. On their way back to the others, they found that the ice in the complex was melting. Most noticeably, the ice skulls hanging from the ceiling in the chapel had completely melted away. Intrigued by the names they had collected, they agreed to seek out the “Tomb of the Warriors”, but first decided to try the ritual for communicating with the enigmatic spheres first.

Grieving for Grimnir’s tragic fall and having surmised something of the nature of the spheres, their first questions were simple, boiling down to “Is anyone in our party dead?” As soon as they came upon one where the answer was “no”, Melastasya smashed the new sphere. Again the pieces vanished and Grimnir berated Mel for having broken yet another priceless magical and unspeakably evil treasure. Mel shrugged his shoulders and patted Melvin, Kevorkian’s beloved pet duck, on the head.

Radar informed them that the complex was still free of other beings, both living and undead, so Kevorkian and the cross-dressing gypsy boy left the rest of the party to continue their research in the library and headed for the Crypts, taking old-man Radar along with them to translate. They went back through the chapel, to a door with a basin full of human teeth mounted on the front and no apparent way to open it. Mel ran back to the area with the clock and pulled a few teeth from the skulls in there. When he returned to the chapel, he nonchalantly dumped the teeth in the basin, causing the door to open, and palmed a gold locket from the basin as he did so.

Beyond the offering door, they found a corridor with a number of large, bronze vault doors, but stopped first by a familiar-looking vivisection/embalming room, complete with four stone slabs stained with ancient blood, bandages, surgical tools, and oddly-shaped bronze instruments as well as a podium with a book on it. The book was titled “The Grimoire of New Flesh”, and detailed a process for the creation of "Unthings"—a form of semi-sentient, lesser flesh golem—taking about 2 weeks, a strong electrical charge, and at least 10 fresh corpses at least as large as a cat.

They then pressed on into the Crypts, turning the great bronze vault wheels to open the, otherwise unlocked, doors. First to the crypt of the priests, then the warriors, and on to the commoners. They were disappointed to find that the names seemed to have no power to animate the bodies in the crypt of the warriors, but were duly impressed by the thousands upon thousands of bodies mummified, petrified and stacked like cordwood in the giant split-level tombs. They poked around a bit, finding a number of valuable trinkets as well as two musical scores—the “Dismissal Fugue” from the crypt of the priests and “The Core Remains” in the crypt of the commoners.

eyes.JPGThrough the final vault door at the end of the hall, they found a giant stone eye, made up of millions of ever-smaller eyes, carved into the wall opposite the door. They were also immediately assaulted by blaringly loud, discordant singing coming from an open door at the end of the next hallway. They peaked at the far door to see a pale, aged, completely bald human head hanging off the front of the bloated mass like the knot in a dirty white balloon flanked by a pair of thin, feeble shoulders terminating in equally frail arms. A galaxy of glass-like spheres were clearly visible, interspersed throughout the creature’s vast, organless body.

Since the thing seemed to not be moving from the room, the decided to poke around the hallway before investigating the singer. Mel noticed a small hole, filled with water and a few coins, at the base of the eye carving and tossed a coin in. He immediately felt much healthier, so Kevorkian did likewise, only to find himself less wise.

The headed through the right-hand passage from the corridor, naturally, and found another large vault-door, flanked by a pair of fountains. The two fountains featured statues of children vomiting black unholy water into the fountain’s basins and were marked with a pattern of copper coins making the Noga rune for “Gift”. Mel tossed a coin into each fountain and the great vault-doors opened into the Crypt of the Children. Unlike the other crypts, here thousands of wrapped and petrified children, ranging infants and toddlers to pre-teens, were mounted free-standing on their own individual plinths staring mutely at the door, like some kind of grotesque museum. They explored a bit, descending to find the second level of the crypt much like above, and left Melvin to paddle happily around in the water collecting on the floor from the melting ice.

They then headed across the hall from the fountains into a small prayer room filled with pedestals, petrified kneeling pillows, and tablets, stained dark with old blood. The tablets contained the usual fatuous and esoteric blasphemies (“Annihilate, traduce, devour”, “I am healed and hollowed", "I am the house of insurrection”, etc.). An ink pot and a pile of rusting needles sat on a podium with a bronze plaque affixed to it, reading “My Gift Is Defiance, And My Gift Is Its Mark” in Noga. Mel read the plaque aloud and he and Kevorkian were both immediately compelled to tattoo the Noga sigil for “Death” on the back of their inhuman hands using the needles.

Once done getting their matching tattoos, they headed back out and went to check out the singer. Kevorkian stepped closer to examine the creature and got bitch-slapped by a disturbingly stretchy arm for his trouble. The sphere-filled gelatinous form filled the entire room, including a deep shaft cut into the floor and ceiling. The actual room could be seen by looking through the creature as through clear marbles in a fishbowl. The 30 foot ceilings arched above a giant carved skeleton on the west wall covering an intricately carved waist-high altar against which the bloated body pressed two golden goblets, and a large, ornate book.

16 Hammer

Not wanting to get hit again, they backtracked out, leaving the vault doors open so they could continue to listen. As they retreated, Kevorkian suggested that maybe playing something on the organ might placate the singing whatever-it-was. Mel suggested that they needed a back up plan and searched through the glass spheres, looking for one in which things were obviously going badly.

He settled on one in which the mountain had been reduced to a pile of rubble and the party was clearly seen fleeing down it. Using the Resonance of the Bound Spheres, he asked first “Are we all dead”, to which the answer was simply, “No”. Then, “Is anyone going to leave here alive”, “Yes”. And lastly, “Why isn’t the mountain a mountain”, to which the reply was “We woke it up”.

Satisfied, Mel pocketed that sphere away from the others, sat down, and rocked out ‘Devour Me’, resulting in another tremor and louder singing from down the corridor. Deciding that must be the wrong one, he followed up with the ‘Dismissal Fugue’. This was accompanied by an even stronger tremor, and, as the last note faded out, everything went black and he and Kevorkian found themselves suddenly elsewhere.

By elsewhere, they were, specifically, in a small room, sealed by a large bronze door covered with hundreds of tiny, barbed bronze hooks, over which a collection of withered faces were stretched. In the center of the room was a plain, unadorned sarcophagus, which Mel quickly popped open with his crowbar. Lying inside was a skeleton, a thing membrane of yellowed skin pulled tight across the bones, and a gold chain around its neck. It, naturally, sat up and asked “What oath do you take?”

Mel and Kevorkian found themselves unable to move anything save their mouths. Mel quickly blurted out “I will destroy this place and all that have brought it into being!” and found himself able to move again. Kevorkian then pronounced “I will enhance my race through trial, error, and self-sacrifice.” Once free, Kevorkian backed towards the door while Mel asked the creature if it was ‘The Exalted Interrogator’ and was corrected and informed that he was “Aervik Narn the Testifier”.

Suddenly they found themselves again paralyzed and faced with the question, “What oath do you take?” Kevorkian swore “To complete the work that I have been tasked to do,” then threw open the door and rushed into the hall. Mel said, “I will eat ten hardboiled eggs in one setting”, then followed. Just before Mel slammed the door behind him, the thing in the sarcophagus warned him, “Know that your oaths are bound by infernal law. If left unfulfilled, in that moment you will be drawn into hell and tortured for 1001 years.”

Mel shuddered and looked down the corridor they had rushed into. The right-hand wall sported several doors, each unique. The first covered with hundreds of sharpened bone spikes. The second was not only barred but painted shut—red paint covering the door and its frame—and bore a Noga inscription across the lintel reading “I will create a slaughterpen above the valley, I will create a place of injury and error.” The third had fifty skeletal fists nailed to it, and the next was painted with a flaking mural in which a robed woman on a pedestal looks on as naked slaves disembowel themselves.

Mel decided that the one painted shut was the least intimidating and proceeded to chip the paint away, then pop the lock. Inside Mel and Kevorkian found a bright bronze lamp hanging above a sarcophagus shaped like the ancient city below—complete with a scale model of the stairway to heaven. Within was a lean, dessicated, and petrified skeleton, draped in blood-coloured robes and bedecked with gold jewelry. The skeleton stretched and sat up, greeted the two of them in a friendly manner, and asked them to “tell me of your exploits.”

Mel and Kevorkian proceeded to expound upon their past adventures, with the skeleton occasionally interrupting them and adding details that they had left out. The skeleton eventually introduced itself as ‘The Red Architect’ and seemed amused by Mel, bored with Kevorkian, and oddly omniscient (or close enough to such).

Then, of course, Kevorkian noticed that their three shadows, stark and sharp in the light of the bronze lamp, were moving on their own…

to be continued…

Being a collection of letters which have appeared suddenly in the possession of various creatures...

In Traithe’s pocket:

We have entered the Nogian city and have discovered an ancient people-sacrificing civilization entering into its inevitable ghoulish nadir. They’ve been killing millions of people here for centuries when it was populated, but now they just have a ghost crew (11 of 16 left) of silt-ghouls things that continue to siphon life off wandering travelers and deliver the goods to their god. Nonmagical attack do not harm them. We are currently investigating the records they left behind, at the petrified wood lodge at the top of the other spire. Their god has a parasite that has been eating the life energies and may have made the pool. I wound a magical clock back some hours and time seemed to stop except for me and those involved in the sacrifice pact, apparently. There are a group of steppe folk and gnolls down in the valley engaged with spike shooting flying lions, and I tried to kill the the lions with sling stones, but I’m not sure how that went. Do join us, this clock is awesome.

Sorry about the pants,
— Mel

In Traithe’s hand:

There’s a note in your pocket.

In Eraka’s hand in Trade Pidgin:

Hope I was able to help with those lion things. There are silt-ghoul things in the underground places here that are only harmed by magical means.

&:& [sic: weird Aboleth symbol].

[Postscript in Gurri:]
Dacă puteți citi acest nume meu este Melastasya și aș vrea să fie prietenul tău.

[Translation] «If you can read this my name is Melastasya and I would like to be your friend.»

In Eraka’s pocket:


Open letter to Kryptgarten (30 copies printed in Phlan):

!. Kryptgarten is an estate of conviviality and peace.
@. Any that wish to work the soil or tend the bees are welcome to Kryptgarten.
#. They that attempt to despoil the land or hinder the workers there will be “reconciled to Pokey” [sic: made into soap].
$. Test the veracity of all proclamations.

Closed letter to the Amazons:

Let us know if we can help,

— Former people in charge of Kryptgarten.

The Third Party: Session 12 (GMs notes)

13 Hammer

The_Peak.JPGThe party stood on the mountain’s peak, shivering in the cold, winter air and staring down at the defile on the north side, wherein had been carved an ancient Nogian city. The dominant feature was a great spiral staircase that once reached to the heavens, now just a vast ruin stretching across the mountain ridge. Huge, ragged chunks of dull gray masonry lay strewn across the landscape for hundreds of yards in either direction, like the building blocks of some enormous and forgetful child, the largest sections easily ten yards or more across. The building were nothing but rubble, save for two structures near the center of the city that looked like they might have intact roofs. Nearby to the two buildings were seven large, earthen mounds. Silhouetted against the darkening sky to the north and east was was a second, even taller peak.

Ash, finally tired of his new form, doused himself in powder of reversal and, after several excruciating minutes of transformation, resumed his familiar, elven shape. As he and Grimnir discussed long-term goals and what to do about their new ‘allies’—aboleths, giants, and crazed wizards—Melastasya tied off a rope and rappelled down towards the city. Halfway down she noticed an old trail, winding its way up the cliff to the peak and pointed it out to the others, who took the less dramatic route down.

Mel made a bee-line for the center of the ruins and the more-or-less intact buildings she had seen from above, anxious to seek shelter from cold before the sun had completely hidden its face. The building they passed seemed to be of predominantly wooden construction and impossibly old, the wood having completely petrified. The last rays of the sun were fading behind the mountains when they reached the first of the intact buildings. An ancient stable by the look of it.

A quick search revealed nothing immediately dangerous, but did find a strange bevel-edged stone covering a hole in the ground in one of the stalls. Ash, still in the prime of his youthful strength compared to Mel, Grimnir, or Ginger, pried the thing open and sent ‘Zorch’, a brightly-glowing, electrified imp-like creature whom he had freed from its confinement in his wand of lightning, down the pit to investigate. The living lightning spouted some quick commentary about a tunnel at the bottom of the shaft before his speech was quickly cut off.

Mel dropped down the narrow shaft behind the mephit, finding nothing but a trace of ash smeared on the damp, bare-earthen walls of the tunnel. A discharge from her ring of shocking grasp was sufficient to revive the creature, however. As the light brightened from the reconstituting lightning mephit, Mel noticed a grim, gray, silent humanoid figure standing immediately behind where the mephit was manifesting. Ash’s sword erupted with black flames, and he and the mephit quickly gunned down the poor undead.

Mel did a quick examination, finding that the undead beast, like buildings above, had almost completely calcified—to the extent that even its stony eyelids were permanently frozen shut. Unperturbed by the presence of the undead, the party all climbed down and struck out to the west. After a shot jaunt up the twisting, curving tunnels, Ash heard the sounds of footsteps above. They backtracked and closed the stone hatch to the tunnels to make sure they were not followed, then pressed on.

They wound their way through the dark, narrow confines of the tunnels for close to an hour, mapping the many branches and intersections as best they could and occasionally hearing more activity from above. After passing several more vertical shafts similar to the one they came down, they finally came to a five-way intersection centered on another such shaft. Deciding that this must be some sort of hub for the city’s ‘sewers’ (as Grimnir seemed convinced they were in) they decided that Ash and Zorch should climb up and investigate the source of the sounds they continued to hear above them.

As soon as the brilliantly glowing mephit stuck its head aboveground, a squadron of gnolls who had been searching the ruins charged the hole Ash had opened, with nine of the creatures baring down on them, and one breaking off and running the other way (whether for reinforcements or because gnolls are notoriously unreliable is hard to say). Ash threw off the lid and dropped down the shaft. The party arrayed themselves in the many side-passages and waited.

When the gnolls poked their heads, and their spears, over the lip of the pit, Grimnir let loose with an eldritch blast, catching one of the creatures under its ample chin. The gnoll was hurled up into the air, only to land spread-eagled over the mouth of the pit. Ash lit the prone gnoll up with a firebolt and Melastasya planted a crossbow bolt in the it’s groin. When the gnoll curled up against the pain, one of its companions stomped on it, lodging it in the top of the pit, and another dropped the stone back in place, apparently uninterested in tangling with whatever was in the pit further.

Grimnir pulled the poor, stuck gnoll down and put it out of its misery. At the same time, another of the undead creatures had snuck up on Ash and tore into his back with its rock-hard claws. Grimnir disintegrated the thing with a pair of eldritch blasts and they all headed down the right-most passage.

After a ways, the passage opened up into a large chamber with three exits, in which were waiting a half-dozen more of the undead. Ginger strode nonchalantly out into the middle of the chamber, provoking the things to rush her en-masse, only to blow them back with a well-timed thunderwave. Then, protected by a protection from evil from Grimnir and armed with her shillelagh, she and Ash proceeded to beat on them soundly. Grimnir held back in the passage, keeping the undead from massing again with his repelling blasts, while Mel, unable to harm them with her fists or crossbow bolts, distracted them with her generally insane antics (up to and including dumping buckets of water on their heads).

Even with their magical, the undead landed a few lucky hits, draining Ginger’s life energy. Then finally fled when two of their were killed, dispersing into the many side passages. Two escaped, but one was made particularly easy to follow thanks to Zorch clinging to its back and glowing brightly. They ran down the mephit-burdened creature, as well as one of its companions. After a prolonged chase, the companion was plastered on the walls by repeated eldritch blasts and the one was curled up on the floor of the passage, cornered between a flaming sword and a shillelagh, and trying desperately to shake off the electrified imp clinging to its arm.

When the undead creature began moaning something almost intelligible, Ash used a comprehend languages to learn that it was signalling its surrender in the ancient language of Nog. Unable to respond in a traditional fashion, Grimnir used his staff of enslavement to dominate the creature and speak directly to its mind.

The creature, dubbed ‘Radar’, explained that it and its companions, fifteen in all, were the last remnants of the Noga. They were warriors, mystics, and leaders, slain and buried in honor in the heart of the city (called “Deckon Thar”) and that when they awoke as undead, their culture was many thousands of years gone. The undead Noga served their king, Vinjarek, collecting the souls of would-be looters or explorers as tribute for their king, who in turn gave them as tribute to ‘The Parasite’. Radar further explained that their king, as a great Mystic feared nothing from magic, being vulnerable only to sunlight and silver.

When questioned about ‘The Parasite’ and silver treasures, Radar explained that all items of silver were thrown into a bottomless pit as tribute to ‘The Mountain’, all else he said was collected for Vinjarek. The Parasite, he said, was an outgrowth of ‘The Mountain’, feeding on the souls of the dead that were once also tribute to The Mountain (The word used for the Mountain was “Duvan’ku” in the Noga tongue). Though Radar was rather circumspect, it became clear that he believed Duvan’ku was some ancient god buried beneath the mountain.

When questioned as to whether any books or writing had been preserved, Radar explained that they preserved their records in a ‘shrine’ on the second peak. Radar then informed them that sixteen living, sentient creatures had assembled on the surface, almost directly above them and that the other undead had massed in King Vinjarek’s throne room—revealing that, for all that his eyelids were petrified closed, these undead were apparently able to sense the presence of any living creatures, regardless of barriers, at great distance, as well as communicate telepathically with their own kind, and earning his name.

Radar lead the party up out of the tunnels through a shaft that led up into one of the burial mounds, and then another up to the top of the mound. From this vantage, they were able to see that the full moon had risen, illuminating a brilliantly glowing staircase of silvery light, reaching up to the clouds, superimposed over the foundations of the collapsed tower. Radar informed them that this stairway “lead to heaven” (with some admonishment from Grimnir that he should mind his language). Ash clarified that this was one of the mythical “Moon Steps”, a place where the Infinite Staircase which linked all plains of existence extended into the material realm.

Manticore.JPGStanding below them, staring up at the steps, but also scanning the skies anxiously with bows drawn, were nine gnolls and seven humans dressed in the garb of the Eraka horse nomads. The party stayed low, watching the gnolls and barbarians for some time, then saw a trio of manticores sweep over the northern ridgeline and attack the group. The gnolls and barbarians dove for cover amidst the ruins, and returned arrows for tail spikes.

While the gnolls, nomads, and manticores were all clearly distracted, the party followed Radar through the city and up the slope of the north-eastern peak. The wind picked up as they went higher, blowing flurries of snow and ice into their faces. Near the top of the peak they found a graveyard, with thousands of ice-crusted bronze markers, eerily reflecting the moonlight.

Radar informed them that ‘the library’ (as the party insisted on calling it) was underground, but that they would find the main log in the shrine at the top of the slope. They followed Radar to the shrine, a small building of petrified wood. The roof sagged, as if it were already weighed down with snow and dead centuries long before the petrification occurred, and the exterior walls were scrawled with neurotically minute calligraphic writing in the ancient language of Nog.

Griminir and Ash again used comprehend languages to read the walls (at least those sections not eroded away or buried in snow), making out such obtuse sayings as “_Look Upon The Seven Faces of Immensity Look Upon The Breaker of All Things_” and “_This Is The Fifth Octacle, This Is The Greater Servitude_”. Bands of long-cancelled protective runes circled the building, indicating it was once defended like a fortress. As well as runes referencing a “bound and conquered god”. There were names that come up a lot: “The Twin Inquisitors Eizethrat Nexx and Gorgulos Nexx”, “Vorgen Pox the Slaughterer”, “Nazir An-Azat the Red Architect”, “Exalted Interrogator Aetheldredd Aleph”, and “Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus”—all claimed to be “Resting in splendor”, “Gracing this place with death and that which they liberated from life” and other euphemisms for “buried here with a lot of stuff” in “crypts beyond the black tunnel”. There was also what appeared to be an (incomplete) formula for trapping and channeling the energies of tortured and obedient souls in some kind of liquid, which Grimnir hastily copied into his book of shadows.

The petrified and iced-over front door collapsed inward at a touch from Melastasya, revealing a single, large room, containing by a large, petrified desk, three ancient-looking bronze chairs (all arranged to face directly at the door), the taxidermied and petrified head of some kind of elk, and a tall mirror. The desk was dominated by a single, massive book, the size of a man’s torso, bound in bronze and covered with what Ash immedaitely recognized as elven skin.

Head.JPGGrimnir and Ash quickly moved to the book, taking advantage of their lingering enchantments to read it. The cover read “That Which Was Given” in Noga, and it contained what appeared to be a record of nine millenia worth of sacrifices, with dates written in sixty-seven different calendars. The handwriting and ink varied from page to page, and it was clear that the book had not been in continuous use, with time gaps ranging from a few years to over a thousand. Despite this, there were more than six million names entered in the log, with the most recent dating to the earliest days of Netheril, and some references to corresponding events (a historian’s wet dream).

Grimnir and Ash speculated that, given the ritual for trapping tortured souls in liquid inscribed on the outer walls, so many millions of dead might be the true source of the Pool of Radiance, especially given its supposed source being in a cavern just below them.

As they poured over the book, Ginger and Melastasya examined the mirror and were surprised to find that Mel and Ash were somehow not reflected in its surface. The glass was faintly bubbled and as cold as ice, and Noga heiroglyphs were visible in the scrollwork around the glass. Grimnir was able to translate the runes around the mirror as “Every Brother” “Every Sister” and “Unseen”.

Ash made his way over to the head hanging on the wall. He noticed that the eyes were clearly separate, looking like small glass orbs filled with some yellow liquid. Gingerly he pried the eyes loose with his knife, but shattered one, spilling the yellow, syrupy fluid on the ground which began flowing towards the door. The party chased the stuff, blasted at it, and threw things, but it managed to make it over the threshold and sink into the snow—or, more specifically, into a corpse that lay buried in the snow right outside the shrine.

The corpse began to making choked moaning sounds. Grimnir asked Radar about the body and was informed that the body was previously one of the Noga, by the name of Norquorve, and that he was still “more dead than undead”, lacking the other half of his soul. Just then Melastasya found a locked trap door in the floor, and Norquorve was left to his moaning.

Beneath the trap door was a fifty-foot shaft with rungs in the walls, leading down into the mountain. After being reassured by Radar that this was not the pit of Duvan’ku, Mel climbed down, followed by the others. At the bottom they found a pair of large, double doors made of solid ice and a table with an elaborate water-clock on it which used no reckoning they were familiar with. They watched in fascination as the clock struck the time, releasing a pair of taxidermied ravens—which seemed to enrage Grimnir.

Ash stepped forward and examined the birds, finding that their chests had been replaced with clear ice and filled with what looked like marbles. Mel slashed the birds open and carefully extracted the marbles, which, like the eyes of the head above, were small spheres of ice filled with liquefied souls, and stowed them.

Grimnir began messing with the clock, trying to set the time forward, and vanished. Mel jumped forward and tried to set it back, only to see everyone around her, except Radar, freeze in place. After waiting a rather long time, Mel found that everyone was still frozen, so she climbed back up the shaft, trekked down the mountain past unmoving snowflakes, and into the city where the nomads and the manticores were still locked in combat, the latter hanging unmoving in the air. Enjoying her prolonged time-stop, Mel stashed scribbled some notes and shoved them into the Eraka’s pockets, and pelted the frozen manticores with stones until they were black and blue.

Five hours, for her, after the freeze began, Mel climbed back down the shaft in the shrine to find her friends just beginning to move again. Mel explained what had happened to Ash and Ginger, and, with still no sign of Grimnir, sat down to rest. Ash had a good night’s sleep, but Mel and Ginger were plagued by nightmares. Nearly ten hours later, Grimnir reappeared standing directly in front of the clock, accompanied by Mel’s almost immediate shout of “Don’t touch it again!”

14 Hammer

faces.JPGReunited, they pushed open the tall ice doors into a long hallway. Every surface was carved with small twisted faces with tormented expressions and coated with a thin layer of ice which made the faces appear to writhe and move in the light. As they stepped inside, the faces began screaming in Noga. Radar translated, “You are a gift to Nothing!” The hallway terminated at a strange door, shaped like the head of a massive gargoyle, with a bronze key shoved into the space between its nostrils.

Mel turned the key and the jaws opened, allowing them into a room with a massive pair of bronze doors, and ten small tables, each baring a single skeletal left hand inscribed with the Noga words for “transcribe” and “replace”. Grimnir collected the strange hands and they pushed their way past the doors into what Radar said was a chapel.

14 Hammer, 10:00 am

The room was filled with three-foot plinths carved of ice and the sound of rattling chains could be heard further on in the darkness. The vaulted ceiling reached a height of thirty-feet, and around the walls were murals, an altar, and an organ, each behind a thin wall of ice, and twelve jawless, toothless skulls made of ice hanging in the center of the room from hooks on chains, dripping.

A wall mural depicted a man in a crown and cape from behind, with many demons bowing before him: the Bloated Goat, The Empress of All Widows, The Primordial Demogorgon, the Ringwolf, and many more. Another wall murals depicted unimaginable violations—one showed hundreds of women hanged from a single spreading tree, another showed hundreds of men impaled on leaning pikes. It bore an inscription in the Noga tongue reading “Name them yet build to them no monument”. Another mural depicted a man stabbed with nine swords being dropped into an hourglass—an inscription read “He is made holy, an eater of souls”.

Melastasya walked towards the organ, whose keys were made of fingerbones, punched her way through the ice-wall to reach it, and sat down and began playing Tocata and Fugue in D Minor. There was a deep tremor in the earth as she played and one of the skulls fell from its hook, shattering and spraying the party with a strange, icy-cold liquid which instantly aged Melastasya another 20 years. Grimnir only barely saved himself from the same fate by employing the all consuming shield (sacrificing much of his intellect to do so). The tremor also caused a panel of the organ to pop loose, revealing a small alcove containing an onyx bowl and a sapphire locket inscribed with the Noga heiroglyph for “death”.

14 Hammer, 10:10 am

Grimnir then shoved Melastasya aside and began playing The Entertainer, accompanied by another tremor and causing the remaining walls of ice to shatter and collapse, as well as the ice marbles the Mel was carrying. The souls released from the marbles quickly lodged themselves in Melastasya, who briefly referred to herself as Magen Eisenthrast before the possession was suppressed by another casting of protection from evil by Grimnir.

14 Hammer, 10:15 am
To be continued…

The Third Party: Session 11 (GMs notes)

11 Hammer

Ginger, Kevorkian, and the Drow finally made their way down the stairs to the third level. The party, reunited, stood staring around at the main piping room. Then Traithe led the way towards the right-hand of the three doors standing on the other side of the room. Finding it neither locked, nor trapped, they barged right in, where they found a stack of barrels, a large vat connected to an inlet coming from the pipe outside and with an outlet pumping the sludge up into a room above. Three lizardmen were chained to the walls—two systematically dumping the contents of the barrels into the vat, and the third working a large bellows-pump to mix the barrel-contents with the black sludge and send it top-side.

Grimnir tried, again, to address the creatures in Draconic. One, at least, seemed to speak the language. They freed the three prisoners and offered them large amounts of fish, and the old-man’s corpse, to eat. The draconic-speaker, ‘Experiment 321’, agreed to accompany the party in exploring the rest of the complex. The other two headed for the exit, but not before one addressed the party in halting Tharian:

scratching.JPG“Thankyou for freeing us. Yarasss has Been experimenting on our people, changing them in horrible ways. ’Every night we carry off another with his chest Burst open or his head mangled, Yarasss say he make us like Sa-Hag-An. He always say that he make us stronger, better hunters. ’But all he make us is dead. We were not allowed to speak when Yarasss was around but these marks were passed down to us and remind us of home. They represent the friendword used between our different tribes. If you meet us on the outside, this word may help you.”

The party let the two lizards leave and moved on to the next door. This one was protected by a complex lock with a constantly changing series of ten symbols on it, each morphing to a different shape after a few seconds, clearly connected to a complex magical trap of some kind. Mel, Traithe, Ash, and #321 put their heads together trying to disengage the FLUX-lock. At first it seemed like some combination of two of the symbols would work, then Mel, in typical Mel fashion, suggested that Ash should just hit all ten of the symbols at the same time—which, oddly, worked. Behind the door was a small, empty room. A little experimentation revealed that both the left-hand and right-hand walls were teleporters.

Deciding to leave the teleporters alone, the went to the last door and found a small appartment. An old, worn bed, that might have been comfortable at one point, dominated the room, along with a wash-stand filled with blackened water, a wardrobe hung with numerous equally threadbare robes, and a large desk piled with papers. Mel, Ash, and Traithe sifted through the many documents. Amidst various incomprehensible alchemical formulae, they found a few interesting tidbits:

A quick note on an often used piece of paper.
‘I must find some hardy allies in case this monster from Phlan sends his troops to attack my island. I need a small, intelligent party who can move through the civilized areas without notice, but who have the skill to traverse the uncivilized areas and the wilderness. I must watch the next groups to come to the lake and see if any would make, proper allies.’

An impressive announcement.
BOUNTY of 10,000 GOLD!
I will pay 10,000 gold pieces for a live sahuagin! I will pay 1,000 gold pieces for a recently dead sahuagin in good condition. I need a specimen of this man-like salt water aquatic creature for my studies. Bring your specimen to the shore of Lake Kuto and build afire as a signal. Your specimen will be examined. If it is truly a sahuagin you could end up with 10,000 gold pieces. But beware, I will know any forgeries, and I will punish any attempt at deception.
So, capture a live sahuagin, bring him to Lake Kuto, and walk away a rich man!’
yarash the Sorcerer

An official looking notice
‘The time has come for you to add your power to the growing legions of my followers. Come, and supplicate yourself to me and I will reward you as an important officer in my magical forces, you will serve as the advisor to the cohort of soldiers to be based at Sorcerer’s Island. Resist and you shall be crushed before, my almighty power. I expect your positive reply within the week.’
“The Boss”

And the unsent reply.
To: The Boss
Valjevo Castle, Phlan
I categorically reject your demand that I submit my island and my powers to your control. I am a free man and I will remain free. No petty tyrant can order about a true mage. If you or your troops make any move toward Sorcerer’s Island I shall send an army of my unstoppable aquatic creations down the Barren River and sink your precious castle. Until now you have been beneath my notice. If you value your empire, let us keep it that way.
Yarash, the Sorcerer

A preserved parchment covered with gigantic script:
’I am writing to you to describe my further inquiries into the legend of the Pool of Radiance. It seems the pool has moved several times. Long ago, our mutual friend Aumry actually moved the pool into his abode for a period of time to study it. however, the pool seems to return to its original location after every move. I am now watching the dry hole that is the pools natural location.
When it returns I will be ready. I truly believe that the Pool of Radiance is the key to the wisdom that we seek.
Yours in wisdom,


An unsent note written on sturdy parchment and a rough map.
‘An active dragon has made its home in the Dragonspine Mountains to the northwest. Keep search parties away from the area so as not to catch the dragon’s attention.’

Beneath all the papers they also found Yarash’s Spellbook, which both Ash and Grimnir seemed quite happy to abscond with, and an official proclamation from the Council declaring Grimnir and company to be outlaws, apparently signed that morning.

The party headed back to the center room and, of course, linked hands and jumped through the right-hand teleporter. They appeared in a huge cavern, standing ankle-deep in black water on the edge of a massive underground lake. A huge pipe, clearly the same one from the room above descended from the ceiling down into the water, sucking up the black liquid and carrying it up above. The same impossibly old-seeming, tattered-robed man floated over the lake, examining the pipes and muttering to himself.

Grminir and Ash tried to engage the old man in a conversation. Meanwhile, Kevorkian leaned down and took a drink of the black water and immediately began gasping, his lungs suddenly unable to process oxygen. Kevorkian dove into the lake and found that not only could he breathe under the polluted water, but he could see—a massive, glittering city rested on the bottom of the lake. He surfaced and tried to yell to the others, but only managed to blurt out “There’s a city!” before something yanked him down beneath the surface again.

877161.pngGrimnir addressed Yarash again, asking him to call off his aquatic army, to which he responded roughly, “I can’t do anything about it” and also “It’s not my problem”. #321 dived in after Kevorkian, then burst up to inform the others that he had been pulled down by an Aboleth.

  1. rushed in and stabbed the thing, only to get tail-smacked, flying, out of the water. She (apparently it was a she) was seized in mid-air by a spell from Ash, then grabbed by Megri the dark elf who ran back through the portal, dragging the levitating lizard behind her.

Grimnir snagged Kevorkian with his thorn whip yanking the struggling priest out of the aboleth’s grasp and up out of the water, dislocating Kevorkian’s knee in the process. Mel grabbed Kevorkian and also sprinted through the portal, Grimnir, Traithe, and Ginger close on her heels.

Ash unleashed a bolt of fire at the foul-smelling water, hoping that it might be flammable, which sadly it was not, and bolted after the others. As he skidded back into the room with the two teleporters, he pulled the black-water filled bracers they had taken from the old man they killed and slapped them onto Kevorkian’s wrists, restoring his ability to breathe normally.

As they discussed what to do next, most of which involved running away, the old man from the cavern below appeared in the room with them. Mel showed him the notice from the desk about needing a small, intelligent party, and Yarash agreed that they had proven themselves sufficiently resourceful. They discussed, at length, his need for better test subjects in his research to ‘improve’ the lizard men—ranging from any scaled beasts to thri-kreen, but ruling out most ‘soft-skinned’ humanoids.

Kevorkian asked the old wizard if he could do anything along the lines of giving him a new hand. Yarash’s eyes lit up and he and Kevorkian vanished. The others sprinted up the stairs and through the teleporter, which led outside, and then backtracked to the labratory-cum-torture-chamber that they had seen before.

Inside Kevorkian was strapped to a table. Again, he found himself somehow able to see, though he soon realized he was looking at himself in the third person—apparently seeing out of Yarash’s eyes. Yarash scurried happily about the room, rotating walls of shelves to reveal even more shelves behind them, lined with all manner of body parts preserved in glass jars. Kevorkian shouted suggestions as he mused over a wall of arms, and eventually Yarash picked a large, pincer-clawed monstrosity.

As Yarash began sawing the remains of Kevorkian’s left arm off, Kevorkian suddenly asked through gritted teeth, “Can you fix my eyes too?” Yarash smiled broadly, left the hacksaw half-embedded in Kevorkian’s shoulder and ran to open a wall, revealing a supply of preserved eyes. Just then the rest of the party walked in.

Ash saw the eyes and apparently saw a kindred spirit. He pulled out the basilisk eyes and showed them to Yarash, who immediately dropped the big jar of eyes he was carrying and rushed over to look. “Those will be perfect!” he said. Yarash took the eyes, quickly measured Kavorkian’s sockets with calipers, determined that his skull was too small, and proceeded to begin expanding Kavorkian’s eye sockets with some spreaders, inserting carefully cut slivers of other creature’s skulls as necessary, until there was room to install the basilisk eyes. Kavorkian, thankfully, passed out shortly into the eye operation…

12 Hammer

Kavorkian woke up nine hours later to find the party casually resting around the operating room, wearing blindfolds or hiding their faces behind books. He was seeing out of his own, newly installed eyes, and looking into the smiling face of “Yarash the Vivisectionist”. His arm still hurt horribly from where the hacksaw was still half-embedded, forgotten in his shoulder. Yarash shook his head, “Something’s wrong…” he muttered. He then made a slit in Kavorkian’s temple, inserted some gruesome spiraling piece of hooked metal, made a few very painful tweaks, and promptly turned to stone.

A moment later, the wizard shook off the effect and cried out gleefully, “THEY WORK!” He then proceeded to saw Kavorkian’s arm the rest of the way off. Just as he was about to attach the new one, Melastasya asked if he could replace her damaged arm as well…

Late in the day, the party reassembled in the room next to Yarash’s apartment with the pair of teleporters: both Kevorkian and Mel sported new arms (and Mel also had some strange stitches in her lower abdomen), and Kevorkian had a pair of dark glasses covering his eyes. They stepped through the left-hand portal and found themselves…

…standing in the middle of the Council chambers in New Phlan.

Luckily the Council was not in session. Traithe quickly disguised the lot of them as best he could given the situation and they casually strode out. Mumbled something about being lost to some confused-looking guards, and were escorted to the Council Clerk’s offices. Grimnir asked the Clerk about the bounty that had been placed on “The Squire’s” head. The Clerk informed him that two parties had sought the commission, but that she could not give them any more information.

They left, and asked around town about the accusations, eventually stopping by the Bitter Blade, where the barkeep informed them of a conversation he had overheard between Councilwoman Bivant and a group of lady adventurers she regularly employed, offering them control of Kryptgarten Keep in exchange for ‘The Squire’s’ head.

They took their leave and went to check out Kryptgarten. They found the place relatively peaceful and operational. Grinkle informed them that some women from Phlan had been by asking about them, but had not caused any kind of ruckus. Grimnir decided that Kryptgarten could certainly do worse than having the Amazons in charge, so they simply left (making sure to take Grinkle along with them). On their way out, they found ’Pokey’s’ burned-out corpse, which they decided to pack up and haul with them back to Yarash—figuring the massive crocodilian demon would please their new employer. If that’s what the crazy old wizard was.

As they walked back, they discussed some of the magics they had seen in Yarash’s spellbook, specifically the Clone spell, and how it might be useful for faking their deaths. They agreed to hole up with Yarash and help him with his ‘altruistic’ research into ‘improving’ the lizardfolk, then send Clones of themselves back to Kryptgarten in a few months to be killed publicly.

When they reached the shores of the lake, a glowing door was waiting for them, leading directly into the main pumping chamber of Yarash’s maze. Yarash was ecstatic on seeing Pokey. He praised the party, clapped like a giddy school-girl, and showed them that he already had clones of Mel and Kevorkian growing in vats in a newly carved out room (for spare parts).

Grimnir mentioned something about Pokey having been his own personal ‘Great Old One’ and asked if Yarash could craft something for him to remember Pokey by. Yarash was once again enraptured. He asked if Grimnir also served ‘The Great Master’ and the two of them were whisked off. They reappeared standing on the edge of the underground lake, where Yarash introduced Grimnir to the aboleth and gave him a staff made from one of pokey’s spines.

13 Hammer

ymir.jpgAsh consulted Yarash the next morning, asking about the Pool of Radiance and Yarash’s note from Sorrassar. Yarash admitted that he knew very little about the Pool, but that Sorrassar was an old friend who had “recently” taken up residence at the supposed “home” of the Pool to await its return. The party asked for directions so that they might go question Sorrassar, only to have Yarash simply wave them away.

Literally. He waved and they were away. Far away. In an icy-cold cavern near the top of one of the highest peaks in the Dragonspines. Sitting contemplatively beside a dry, empty basin was a very old looking, blue-skinned man, nearly thirty feet in height.

The giant, Sorrassar, seemed confused to see them, but otherwise fairly relaxed about their sudden appearance. When they explained they were from Yarash, he complained about the old vivisectionist not returning his mail. After some coaxing, and explaining the date, they learned that he had sent that letter to Yarash over six years ago, and, not only had he not received a response, but he had been sitting beside the empty pool all that time.

Sorrassar was very concerned to learn that his ‘friend’ was under the influence of the Aboleth, explaining that the aboleth had once been a shared experiment of he and Yarash. He explained about some brief experiments that a third of their group, a mage by the name of Aumry of Umbar, had done on the Pool of Radiance, but that Aumry’s ability to hold the pool in place had only lasted about fifteen minutes. Given the power expended for them to do that, he was very concerned that six years had passed without the Pool returning to its base location here in the cave.

Ash inquired how Sorrassar had sent his letter to Yarash, and how he expected to receive a response. Sorrassar showed them that simply addressing a note with his name, Sorrassar, would cause the missive to appear in his hand, with an admonishment that they not attempt to ‘conjure with it’, and that a message addressed in the opposite direction would work likewise. After some experimentation it was shown that “Ash” was clearly not Ash’s real name, and the elf seemed disinclined to give any other. Melastasya, however, seemed happy to begin correspondence with the giant, and not at all concerned about giving the giantish wizard her truename.

Convinced that they were unlikely to get any more useful information out of Sorrassar, the party decided to take their leave. Looking out the mouth of the cave, they could see the ice-choked lake that formed the headwaters of the Stojanow river, two-thousand feet strait below. They had a marvelous view of the river stretching away to the south—they could see sorcerer’s island, the dark line of the Moonsea coast, and, closer, a lush, green valley through which the headwaters flowed before leaving the mountains. Sorrassar informed them that this was the Valley of Thorns.

Rather than figure out how to scale the two-thousand foot drop to the valley, they climbed up and over the mountain, hoping to find a gentler slope on the other side. Instead they found the ruins of an ancient city carved into the mountain’s peak. Grimnir recognized enough of the symbols carved into the structures to identify them as being of Noga origin.

Next time, the Ruins

A Letter to Certain Councilmembers

Dear Councilman Mondaviak, and wife,

I hope this message finds you well.

My name is Tamn, and apparently I once again find myself on the wrong side of the law. This seems to be a perpetual string of circumstance for me. I began life as a slave in Hillsfar. I escaped to join the band of adventurers that liberated Thorn Island from the undead menace plaguing it. I then fell in with the bendit Noriss the Grey. From there I became involved in the invasion of Kryptgarten, and then found myself in the service of Melastasya, the lady-friend of the Squire of Kryptgarten. I have learned now that the squire and his have been exiled from the walls of Phlan.

Let me say, I’m not part of that. I have nothing to do with these Kryptgarteners, I just live here. Rumor around here is that you two were the Squire’s original benefactors, but the notice we found has you two signing the death warrant as well. I’m not going to poke that.

Yesterday some women, who according to public opinion are agents of the Lady Bivant and responsible for Lord Noriss’s demise, came to Kryptgarten. They appeared only briefly, causing something of a scene in the tavern, then departed. Later the sounds of several explosions were heard nearby and, later still, Squire Grimnir’s pet was found dead.

Let me say, if these ladies are in fact working for the Lady Bivant, and if they desire entry into Kryptgarten, you would do well to send them around to the back door. Certain subjects of the Squire might be inclined to make sure the door was left open and unguarded.

Best Regards,
Tamn Footstooler, The (Oh Shit I’ve Lost Count) Betrayor

O.O.C. Because, hey, you know, they left a few of our PCs alive and free inside this keep we are about to attack and I don’t feel like rolling a new character right now…

The Amazons: Session 3

It was the dead of winter and the city Phlan had basically shut down. The streets of the slums were basically impassable masses of snow, the surrounding farmers had bought their supplies months ago and holed up, the harbor was too choked with ice for the fishermen to work, and the gates were shut more often than not. In one corner of the city, however, seven women were sitting down to breakfast.

Following their success against Noriss the Grey, the Amazons had moved up in public opinion from being oddly-attractive mercenaries to being local heroes. So, today, they found themselves sitting in the drawing rooms of Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak sipping tea, eating scones, and discussing local gossip. It was all very boring until the Councilwoman handed over a flier for the girls to look at.

WHAT?!” was the general outcry.

“That will be publicly posted tomorrow on the doors of the Council Hall, the Training Hall, the Temple of Tyr, and every gate.” Elissa responded.

“But…we just saved them…” Battle Cry said. “Now they are wanted criminals?”

“Yes,” Elissa’s voice betrayed her calm outer demeanor. “We have been hearing odd rumors from Kryptgarten for some time. Councilman von Urslingen has traveled there numerous times and reported that the Squire had been forcing the people to wash, ordering strange religious accouterments, and even feeding the people the flesh of dead orcs…”

“They eat orcs?! I think I’m going to be sick…” Princess interjected.

“Yes. When we first crossed over from Hillsfar, many people on the boat had the ague.” Had Enough, said. “The captain of the ship stopped on Thorn Island to enforce a quarantine, and Grminir and his companions did, in fact, boil the bodies of dead orcs to feed us all…”

“The city watch also caught one of the Squire’s wards setting up an illegal gambling operation in the middle of the market, in broad daylight, not once, but three times, including taking bets from the orcs and goblins as to how long it would take them to destroy the city. Then people started turning up with odd wooden coins, saying they were promised free drinks at Kryptgarten…”

“Wait…is that scrip? Are they printing their own money now?” Worthy of Armor looked confused.

“Nothing wrong with free drinks,” Hot Flanks said.

“No, there is nothing in the law against offering free drinks. However, it seems that they were offering free drinks to the Orcs…and…other things. Deliberately inviting the most degenerate of the city’s enemies to drink at their keep.” Elissa took a sip of tea, the cup rattling against the saucer from her hands shaking. “Then there were complains from the fisherman’s guild against one, Master Delbar, claiming that he had somehow massively undercut their prices and was creating a monopoly. This Delbar was arrested and admitted to working with the Squire and his companions to establish an agreement with xvarts, kobolds, and bugbears to provide him with fish at criminal rates so as to ruin the economy of our city. This testimony was corroborated by citizens of Kryptgarten, who reported large shipments of fish being delivered to the keep’s tavern regular by blue-skinned goblinoids…”

“So, we’ve got some weird cult activity, illegal gambling, and some economic shenanigans. That hardly seems worthy of a death sentence,” Battle Cry said.

“Yes, were that all, I am sure the Council would have called the Squire in to discuss his crimes and arrange reasonable restitution.” Elissa put down her cup and looked at the ladies, her face deadly serious. “Two weeks ago, a number of Kryptgarteners came before the council complaining of unfair and torturous treatment at the hands of the squire. What they brought as evidence was truly shocking…”

“What?” asked Hot Flanks, sitting on the edge of her chair and looking excited in precisely the wrong way.

“…the boiled head of a woman.” Elissa choked on these last words.

WHAT?!” Worthy of Armor shouted.

“Apparently the Squire threatened to ‘make soap’ out of any settler who questioned the Squires arrangements with the cities inhuman enemies. Those that continued to question him were either boiled alive, publicly, or else found dead in their beds with their throats slit…”

There was a long silence before Elissa continued. “The settlers brought many other pieces of evidence—plans for a strange columnar temple with a mass water-heating system that the Squire was forcing them to build, strange plush idols of a great crocodillian monstrosity, and a strand of some fifty human fingers which were part of a collection kept by the Squire’s hobgoblin groom. There can be no doubt that the Squire of Kryptgarten is not only a traitor in league with Phlan’s enemies, but a brutal and sadistic killer in league with the forces of Hell.”

At this point Princess did retch and Worthy of Armor pounded her fists on the table. “Allow me to seek out these murders, Lady Councilwoman.”

Battle Cry chimed in, “Yes, Assuran demands that we seek his vengeance against any who would commit such atrocities,” and Hot Flanks nodded.

Don’t Fail stood up and handed the flyer back to the noblewoman. “It seems that we are all in agreement that these criminals must be stopped. We will go to Kryptgarten at once. If they are there we will bring them to justice. If not, we shall see to the aid of the people they have mistreated and secure the keep until the Squire and his allies should return…”

Elissa nodded, “The Council would be most greatful for your assistance. We are prepared to offer…”

“No,” Worthy of Armor said. “Do not even offer. We must do this as penance for aiding and abetting these traitors. Had we known any of this we would have left them to their fate when Noriss the Grey’s army attacked them…”

Princess looked up horrified, though whether from the thought of facing the demon-worshipers, or the thought of not getting paid for it was anyone’s guess.

Their was a wrap on the door and the girls looked up to see the Councilwoman’s young husband walking in. “Forget the Council’s posted reward then, ladies.” Markos Mondaviak said. “Squire Grimnir’s lands are forfeit. The keep and its lands once belonged to my family, and the people of Kryptgarten deserve caring and law-abiding rulers. If you deal with the Squire, all of his lands and possessions are yours.” He smiled. “And I will not take no for an answer…”

“Yes,” Elissa said, rising and taking his arm. “My husband is quite right. Given the Squire’s breech of faith Kryptgarten does need defenders, and I can think of no one better than you girls.”

Princess stood up, smiling now, and extended her hand. “Very well. We’ll catch this guy for you.”

“Dead would be preferable.” Markos said, bowing and kissing her hand, “No need to put yourselves at additional risk trying to bring these ruffians in alive.”

“May we have a copy of the official, signed notice?” Don’t Fail asked. “It may be helpful for encouraging cooperation from the Kryptgarteners.”

“By all means,” Elissa handed the document back to Don’t Fail. “We can have the clerks draw up extras if you need them…”

The ladies asked around the town for more information about Kryptgarten, but heard much of the same—racial tensions, weird cults, angry fishermen, free booze. Had Enough, feeling some kinship for the ex-Hillsfaran settlers in Kryptgarten urged them to move immediately, but Don’t Fail managed to hold them in check.

“These are clearly dangerous folk,” she said. “The announcement will not be made until the morning, and it will likely take some time to reach them given the snow. There is no reason to rush into it.”

“What about those funny coins?” Princess asked. “Maybe we can find some of them floating around and avail ourselves of Kryptgarten’s hospitality to get closer and learn more.” The others agreed that this was not a bad idea, and so spent the afternoon asking around in the taverns and inns, looking for some of this “Krypt-Scrip”. By evening they were able to round up one wooden coin a piece and agreed to set out in the morning.

They slipped out of the city gates just as the first notice was being nailed up, leaving their horses behind in care of the liverer rather than force the creatures to wade through knee-deep snow. The path between Phlan and Kryptgarten was well-marked and well-traveled these days, but still covered in deep drifts in many places.

The walk took all of the morning and it was past noon when they heard the deep echo of Kryptgarten’s black-iron church bells, and almost an hour later before they reached the small settlement (for it was now much more than a keep). The tavern and church both appeared to be bustling, even at this early hour, though several guards were posted at the doors of both.

“What kind of a tavern needs chain-clad, sword-wielding soldiers?” Battle Cry asked.

“The kind that has orcs for regulars…” Hot Flanks suggested.

They walked up to the doors of the tavern, flashed their funny-munny to the guards, and strode in. The place was an odd mix. Farmers and settlers kept to the shadows around the edges, huddled in small, quiet groups. The center was taken up by orcs, goblins, and other things, all chatting happily in their strange tongues and drinking heavily, one orc even stood on a table reciting something that seemed like poetry (judging from the meter if not the words). The bar staff all wore armor, seeming to eye the farmers with more suspicion than the rowdy monsters. The bar itself was a tall wooden affair, behind which were three great tuns of mead (it seemed that the bar served nothing else) and a large black board on where were listed all manner of commodities commonly traded in Phlan and their prices.

Hot Flanks looked around then whispered to the others, “There is not a single woman in here…”

“Probably because orcs are serial rapists…” Had Enough whispered back.

Sure enough, the orc poet on the table spotted them and said something very loud, gripping its private parts (which were unfortunately not covered by the orc’s short tunic) and drawing the attention of the crowd towards them. A couple of orcs advanced menacingly on the girls.

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…” Princess said.

“Really?” Battle Cry grinned. “A bar fight sounds about perfect right now.”

Just then, the door behind them opened and a short, scrawny hobgoblin, dressed in robes and bedecked with strings of severed fingers walked in. The hobgoblin glared at the orcs and grunted something in their language and the excitable creatures returned to their drinking.

“My deepest apologies ladies,” the hobgoblin said. “If you are here for drinks I’d suggest you visit the keep, we are serving drinks inside for those who would prefer more polite company.”

“Are you in charge of this establishment?” Don’t Fail asked, trying not to look at the strings of fingers.

“No. I am but a humble priest.” The hobgoblin bowed, “My name is Grinkle, priest of the betrayer in battle, chef to Lord Grimnir, and steward of the Kryptgarten.”

“Betrayer in Battle?” Battle Cry said, trying to sound polite, “I am not familiar with goblin religion, who is the betrayer in battle?”

“Why our Lord Grimnir, of course.”

“Thank you sir,” said Don’t Fail, “I think that is enough, we will come back for our drinks at a more opportune time.”

The girls left quickly and adjourned to the edge of the nearby woods to talk.

“The Squire has priests?!” Worthy of Armor looked appalled.

“So he makes himself out to be a god?” Battle Cry said, “And thus claims power of life and death over his subjects. Cute…”

“Looks pretty cut and dry,” Hot Flanks sighed. “Farmers cringing in fear on the edges of a building they built themselves, orcs running amok with their cocks out, hobgoblin stewards sporting chains of severed human fingers, commodities price fixing, creepy churchbells…Fuck!”

Princess’s face was white, “They….they…had barbs…” She looked ready to throw up again. “Why do orcs have barbs on their cocks?!”

“Let’s not even think about it.” Battle Cry suggested. “Let’s just go kill them all.”

“We’ve certainly confirmed much of what the Councilwoman said. I presume that their investigation was thorough, and we do have a warrant for the Squire’s execution.” Don’t Fail pulled out the rolled up and sealed notice and tapped it against the back of her hand. “There are too many orcs in there, though. And civilians. And our goal is the Squire and his co-conspirators.”

“Yes,” said Worthy of Armor, “we need to find a way to get the settlers to safety before we unleash hell.”

“Once they are out though,” said Hot Flanks. “We torch that faux-church, torch the tavern, and hang that screwy squire by his own entrails in Hoar’s name!”

“Hang him by his entrails?!” Princess asked skeptically.

“It’s a figure of speech,” Battle Cry insisted. “Hoar’s will is that we kill him in the manner in which he killed his own victims. Which in this case means that we, literally, boil him in his own pudding…”

(GM) “Hiiiiiissssssssss.”

“Hey the joke wasn’t that bad,” Battle Cry said.

(GM) “No…that was the giant white crocodile-scorpion monster standing behind you.”

The girls turned to see a massive albino crocodile, easily 20-feet from its nose to the tip of the stinger on its segmented, scorpion-like tail. Long boney spines jutted from the creature’s back, decorated with impaled skulls and strung with entrails. The thing reared up on four hind-legs and swiped at Battle Cry with its two fore-claws. The first blow tore open her right shoulder, the second ripped out her throat. Battle Cry fell, bloody and broken, soundlessly into the snow.

Worthy of Armor gave a mighty shout and threw her scimitar at the thing’s head. The monster ducked just in time, but the whirling, magically sharpened blade cut off a dozen of the beast’s spines, which rained clattering down onto its back. Had Enough charged the thing with her greatsword, hitting hard, but the blade simply struck a ringing note off of the monster’s stone-hard hide without leaving a dent.

Don’t Fail pulled her elven cloak around herself and dropped down in the snow beside Battle Cry, practically vanishing. Under this cover, she searched through Battle Cry’s possession, finding her potion of regeneration it pouring it into the gaping hole that had been her friend’s throat.

Hot Flanks quaffed a potion, then glared at the creature, focusing her rage at the death of her friend at the thing and willing it to suffer incredible pain. “Now!” she shouted at Princess, calling on tactics they had used often. Princess, who had maneuvered around to the thing’s side, leaped on its back through the opening in the spines that Worthy had made and jabbed the Handsome Prince deep into the creature’s neck.

The creature roared in pain and lashed out with its tail, driving the spine clear through Princess’s back and out through her chest with her heart still impaled on the point.

Had Enough, more brave than wise as usual, swung again and again failed to penetrate the beast’s hide. “Stop that!” Don’t Fail yelled, “you clearly need magic to harm that thing.” Had Enough nodded grimly, tossed her sword aside, and jumped up on the creature’s back, grabbing for the Handsome Prince.

Worthy of Armor threw her scimitar again, this time gouging a bloody line all the way down the creature’s left side, nearly severing its foreleg. Don’t Fail rolled away from Battle Cry’s body and pulled a torch from her pack, lighting it with a simple spell. “Shall we see if fire works?”

Hot Flanks smiled, “YES!” She pulled out her iron club, leveling it in the monster’s direction.

“Wait!” Don’t Fail yelled, you’ll hit Had Enough.

Hot Flanks hesitated just long enough for the beast to strike Had Enough a powerful blow with its tail. While it failed to impale her, the blow was strong enough to send Had Enough flying. She slammed into a tree several feet away.

“Now!” Don’t Fail yelled.

“May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” Hot Flanks screamed in response, and a massive ball of flame blossomed over the monster’s shoulder, searing the skin of its back black. “Looks like that works.” She said smiling.

The creature, howling in pain, surged forward, lashing out at Hot Flanks with four of its claws, tearing through her leather cuirass and leaving large bloody gouges in the flesh beneath. Hot Flanks, enraged, drew her club and shoved her hand into the beast’s mouth. “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” she screamed again. The monster happily closed its jaws on her arm, shielding her and the rest from the fiery detonation that followed. The crocodile-monster appeared to expand, slightly, then smoke poured from its nose, ears, and eyes. The thing collapsed into the snow, unmoving.

Hot Flanks collapsed right beside it, cradling her arm which had been severed just below the elbow. Don’t Fail rushed to her side, laying hands on the wound to stop the bleeding, while Worthy of Armor walked over and stabbed the thing several times with her magical scimitar for good measure.

“What in Hoar’s name was that?” Hot Flanks said once she had composed herself.

“Some sort of demonic mascot I presume,” said Worthy of Armor. “The same was depicted on their flag as we came in.”

Had Enough walked over and retrieved Princess’s body, and pulled the Handsome Prince not at all gently out of the beast’s back. “Hot Flanks handless, and Battle Cry and Princess dead, and we haven’t even reached the Squire himself yet…”

“Nor dealt with the orcs and goblins.” Don’t Fail added. “Though, Battle Cry will recover.” She pointed to where the wounds on her neck and shoulder were already closing. “Those potions work wonders. As soon as her trachea is repaired she should start breathing again, and be fully functional shortly thereafter. I only wish we had more than just the one…”

“Great, we’re still five where we were six, and most of us injured,” Worthy of Armor said, fighting back tears. “We should withdraw, see Princess laid to rest, then make a proper plan of assault. Dealing with these treasonous heathen will not be an easy task.”

“Yeah, that fireball may have drawn the attention of some in the keep,” Don’t Fail added, “we’d best move fast.”

They gathered up their weapons, made a makeshift stretchers for Princess and Battle Cry from branches and cloaks, and hightailed it back to Phlan.

The Third Party: Session 10 (GMs notes)
In which the party experiments with teleporters in a maze, and the wizard fights all the monsters solo...

9 Uktar

The party returned to Kryptgarten late in the evening to find the citizens of Kryptgarten arrayed for battle, armored and torch-wielding, surrounding Melastasya’s Tavern and engaged in a shouting match with a large contingent of orcs, xvarts, and other “monsters” who had come to avail themselves of their free drink tokens. They arrived just as things were about to come to blows and stepped in quickly.

Melastasya snuck into the Tavern, conveniently built right on top of the secret passage into the Keep, through the back door. She offered more free drinks and convinced all of the tavern’s patrons to follow her down into the secret passage and into the keep, where she opened another tun of mead.

Grimnir and Ash called all of the human settlers into the bathhouse, saying that they needed to have an important meeting regarding dire threats nearby that were able to age a man by half his life instantly. This, plus Grimnir’s obvious state of decrepitude, got their attention and they, somewhat reluctantly and still with a great about of “rabble rabble” made their way to the bathhouse/meeting hall (because where else would Grimnir hold a meeting).

Grimnir started pontificating, trying to calm the crowd and talking about “cleaning up Kryptgarten”. Ash (hooded) slipped through the crowd and pulled three of the loudest rabble-rousers up to the front of the crowd. He insisted that he needed to show them something, pulling out the basilisk eyes, and was sad to learn that the eyes no longer possessed the power to petrify. He was even more disappointed to learn that the hyper-xenophobic ex-Hillsfarrans recognized his long, slender elven fingers as being “NOT HUMAN”.

One of the three rabble-rousers grabbed the front of Ash’s tunic and poved to punch him, only to get repelling blasted into a pot of boiling water by Grimnir. “I dub thee, Irish Spring,” said the squire, who then proceeded to explain that anyone who committed violence in Kryptgarten without his express order would be boiled and rendered into soap and used to, quite literally, clean up Kryptgarten.

Meanwhile, Melastasya tried to communicate with the, now quite drunk, orcs and other things. The especially orcs, it seemed, were itching for a fight. She tried to pick out a leader among them to make an example of, only to learn the hard way about the oddly-egalitarian horde mentality that all orcs possess. The orcs jostled to show that they were all equally strong (accompanied by many grabbings of their manly bits and offers to rape the old woman to prove it).

Finally Melastasya managed to re-direct their attention away from her, first by saying that they should attack the humans gathered in the bathhouse. She rethought that and tried to convince them to go loot the unprotected hobgoblin holdings, but the aggressive, blood-thirsty orcs were already in motion, charging out the front doors of the keep. She ran alongside, trying to talk them into another target, only to be rebuffed by suggestions that “yes, but there are women right there”. Finally she gave up on diverting the orcs and messaged Grimnir, telling him that he should just let the Kryptgarteners kill the orcs.

Which is exactly what happened. The excited and drunk orcs charged into the bathhouse to find themselves outnumbered 4-to-1 by armed, armored, and battle-tested humans, who were ready and waiting with vats of rendered, boiling lard. Grimnir gave the order, and the melee was brief and vicious.

In the end, fifty orcs were turned into soap, with only three of the Kryptgarteners being killed (by a rapier in the back from the blind Kevorkian hoping to make more Zombies). Kevorkian also collected several orc zombies, who he dressed up with trophies and arms to make it look like they had been engaged in a fight with Hobgoblins (complete with cutting off their left pinkies) and dispatched to walk as far back towards their homes as they could before the animation wore off.

Melastasya returned to the keep and asked the other tavern patrons to leave, discreetly, out the back, while Grimnir gave a few more speeches about order obligation to his serfs.

10 Uktar…and later

The next morning, Traithe (as Elaira) grabbed the Manual of Gainful Exercise and headed for Phlan to seek out Werner von Urslingen for further training. On his/her way into town, she witnessed the corpse of Noriss the Gray being hung from the wall over the Traitor’s Gate, attended by the entire Council and with much fanfare. Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak made a speech claiming responsibility for bringing the infamous bandit to justice. Then her husband made an official proclamation declaring the establishment of a fund to reimburse the victims and that the Council was attempting to repatriate stolen possessions to their rightful owners.

Over the next two months, things got colder, and wetter. Traithe trekked into town daily for his/her training and exercises. Ash holed up in the keep, pouring over the books they had collected from Mendor’s Library, looking for clues as to what might heal the party of their various ailments—learning that Ra-Khati vellum was made from the hides of a particular breed of sheep raised by the Eraka, and that Lake Longreach was also in Eraka terrirory.

Grimnir continued to enforce strict discipline, boiling any settlers that raised any kind of ruckus outside the tavern…Melastasya ‘helped’ by murdering any that even congregated outside the tavern in their sleep. After twenty-three such deaths, the Kryptgarteners seemed to finally get the picture and, quietly and grudgingly, accepted the visitors to their little polity.

Kevorkian tried to make friends with Pooky (the giant six-legged, scorpion-tailed, spine-backed albino crocodile-like monstrosity which Grimnir and Melastasya had summoned). It seemed mostly willing to engage with the blind cleric, until Kevorkian tried to put a collar on it. That last him a hand.

They waited out much of the winter, remaining holed up in the keep throughout the entire month of Nightal, through the celebrations of the Feast of the Moon and the Winter Solstice. By mid-Hammer, though, when the snow lay thick on the ground, the adventurous rulers of Kryptgarten started becoming stir-crazy, until one day they struck out, heading north through the deep snows, following the Stojanow River.

11 Hammer

It was a bright, clear winter day in the cold north. Grimnir, Melastasya, Ash, Traithe, Kevorkian (still blind and one-handed), ‘Ginger’, and a strange dark-skinned elf who had taken refuge for the winter in Kryptgarten, answering to the name of Megri (or some such) found themselves standing on the shores of Lake Kuto, about 30 miles north of Kryptgarten.

In the center of the lake was a small island, maybe a half-mile north to south, covered with snow and vegetation. The north end of the lake was crystal clear, save for a few flows of ice drifting slowly downstream. Starting just south of the island, however, the waters were the familiar black, toxic sludge of the River Barren (as the Stojanow was more commonly known these days).

The party made their way across the river, from the north, using their rings of water walking and out to the island, sure that the island must somehow be the source of the river’s pollution. They searched the island thoroughly, finding no structures, until Melastasya found a smuggler’s hole (a wooden trapdoor concealing a 6 foot deep pit) beneath the snow. They carefully cleared the snow away and examined the door for booby-traps, then lifted the hatch. Inside was a bare, sandy pit with a single, old jug of rum.

Melastasya jumped right in and vanished.

The others, suspecting some sinister and destructive magic may have taken Mel’s life, took some time experimenting with the pit. Lowering a rope (of which only the portion in the pit disappeared), dropping stones, and finally dropping Traithe’s greatsword, which he was able to summon back, thus proving that it was not destroyed. At which point, Kevorkian cannon-balled into the pit, and vanished.

Traithe, still curious, fired one more arrow into the pit. He then convinced Grimnir, Ginger, and Megri to join hands with him and leap in together…

Maze-2.JPGAlone, Ash finally worked up the nerve to leap into the pit. Suddenly finding himself standing in the corner of a hallway, next to a pile of debris (including an arrow and six feet of rope). He waited for some time, calling for his companions. He received a brief message from Grimnir informing him that the rest of them were together and that they too were in a maze of some sort.

With this knowledge he struck out, as always to the right. He navigated a series of switchbacks, then came to a long corridor with an open archway to his right and a bend to the left at the end. Ash again received a message from Grimnir and cast a thunderwave spell in the hopes that his friends would hear it. Which they did not.

Something else clearly had, however, as he soon heard the sound of hurrying, heavy footsteps coming in his direction from the south and west. Ash set a single dancing light well ahead of himself and hid in the gloom near the archway. A moment later he saw a man, nearly eight feet in height, with the head of a bull and a large axe come around the far corner and stare confusedly at the small magical light.

He, of course, blasted it with a lightning bolt.

The minotaur charged, only to have Ash teleport behind it at the last minute and launch it headlong into a wall with yet another lightning bolt. Rather seriously scorched, but not learning, the thing charged a second time—with identical results.

Three lightning bolts weaker and back where it had started, the minotaur dashed around the corner to the left. Ash gave pursuit, only to take a greataxe to the arm as he came running around the corner to find the minotaur waiting in ambush. Wailing in pain, Ash tossed his Monkeys of Blinding and Deafening at the minotaur. The monkeys did their work, gouging out the beast’s eyes and handing them to Ash (where they were added to the basilisk eyes).

The minotaur, blind and very weak, fled. Ash followed, at a safe distance, through a series of winding passages. Finally he saw the minotaur charge at a blank wall and vanish. Ash took a deep breath and charged after it, only to appear back in the sandy smuggler’s hole, staring at the bottle of rum and the sun above.

Ash climbed out, jumped back in, and found himself elsewhere…

Maze_1.JPGMeanwhile, Melastasya found herself at the end of a short passage, which appeared to double-back on itself to the left just ahead. She waited as first a rock appeared beside her. She experimented a few times with the rock, throwing it at various walls and the ceiling to see if it would fly through and back to her friends—to no avail. She moved away just in time to avoid being hit by Traithe’s oversized sword, which promptly vanished again.

Then Kevorkian appeared. Then a minute later Grimnir, Traithe, and the others. All save Ash.

They waited for Ash, who didn’t come, then proceeded along the hall, which spiraled outwards for five turns before ending at a four-way intersection. Grimnir regularly called to Ash using his message spells, finally making contact around the last corner of the outer spiral. They experimented with shouting and making other noises, but it was clear that Ash could not hear them through mundane means, and vice versa.

They explored a bit more, making contact one more time, at which point they told Ash to stay where he was and wait for them to find him. They found another passage to the right which spiraled inwards to a wall through which anything they threw vanished. Traithe, practical person that (s)he was, marked the walls with chalk to identify where they had been.

Maze-3.JPGFrom the teleporter, they backtracked and took the next right, then another right, and found a second teleporter. Grimnir re-established contact with Ash, who informed them that he was engaged in battle with a minotaur. Hoping to reach Ash as quickly as possible, the others linked hands and leaped into the wall…

…only to reappear standing at the top of a set of stairs. They tested the walls, and found neither door nor teleporter, and so proceeded down the stairs. They tried a few more times to re-establish contact with Ash, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Ash suddenly found himself standing next to a few stones, at the center of a corridor which spiraled outwards. Noting several chalk marks in Traithe’s handwriting he followed the marks, coming first to one teleporter, then another. When he found no more marks, he presumed that the others had vanished through the last teleporter. Not knowing really how the things worked, however, and not expecting to actually end up with his companions if he followed them, Ash instead struck out in the direction they had not yet explored.

Maze-4.JPGHe took the next right, then followed the passage as it curved around to the left to find himself in a long corridor with a familiar-looking archway on the left and the smell of ozone in the air.

Hearing the sounds of someone whispering, he ignored the arch and proceeded to the end of the corridor. In the corner, where the corridor doubled back on itself, he found a very old looking man, dressed in tattered robes, sitting on the ground with a cup of water and a bowl of porridge next to him, muttering to himself.

Ash greeted the old man, who, between snatches of conversation with either himself or some unseen entity, responded in perfectly accented elvish, offering Ash some porridge of his own. With some coaxing, Ash was able to learn that the man knew of the minotaur, as well another threat (described as a large half-man, half-spider), and that the porridge “tasted only slightly better than feces”.

Ash accepted the man’s hospitality, but not the food, and sat down to rest for about an hour to recover his strength after his encounter with the minotaur.

From the bottom of the stairs, Traithe and the others circled around to the right until they came to a large iron door. Mel noticed some strange runes around the handle and decided to saw away that portion, in case it represented a trap of some kind. Grimnir simply shot a repelling blast over her head and blew the door off its hinges.

Beyond this, Megri found a secret door. The door opened inward easily, revealing a large, empty cell with a few bones and other food scraps and five very hungry looking lizardfolk cringing in a corner. They tried, unsuccessfully, to communicate with the creatures. Ginger finally charmed one. While unable to speak, she was able to convey the party’s general good will. Then, of course, Traithe noticed that the door was closing, by itself, with no apparent handle or latch on the inside. He caught it in time and wedged it open. Realizing that the lizards were prisoners, the party ushered them out and offered them some rations.

The lizards followed them into the next corridor, where they found another iron door and then a secret door at the end. They opened the secret door first, revealing a small fortune in ancient, corroded silver coins of unidentifiable mint, and three strange magic items: a glass bauble, a rusty-bladed dagger with a jeweled hilt, and a plain-looking wooden shield.

Maze-5.JPGMegri pointed out that the strange glass bauble radiated a powerful aura of Evil. Intrigued, or afraid (it is so hard to tell), Grimnir commanded the others to stand watch as he took the time to identify the thing. It appeared to be a small glass orb, about three inches across, with some sort of diorama inside. On closer inspection, Grimnir found the diorama to be a miniature replica of Kryptgarten Keep, complete with all their recent construction and renovations, but without any people in it. The thing showed no movement, and no amount of concentration of experimentation would cause it to show other scenes, only a static Kryptgarten in miniature. Likewise, his spells were unable to penetrate its secrets. After a tussle with Kevorkian over who could keep it, Grimnir stashed the evil orb in a pouch to deal with later.

Megri grabbed the dagger and shield, Mel and Traithe scooped up the coins, and they all headed for the door they had skipped. Inside was a workroom—part Grand Guignol torture chamber, part Frankenstein’s laboratory. Everything in it seemed to be designed to restrain or cause pain. The walls were lined with bottles and flasks filled with bizzare powders, oils, ointments, and draughts, and a collection of scalpels, forceps, and strange pointy things of all kinds.

Grimnir again took some time examining a large table, complete with manacles and fresh blood, which radiated magic, determining it to be a device to assist in humanoid transmutations. He then conjured a floating disk, which Mel loaded up with alchemical gear to start building a magical laboratory for Ash.

Stepping out into the hallway, they saw a heavily scorched, eyeless minotaur stumbling up the corridor. Grimnir put the poor creature out of its memory and they backtracked to another side passage where they found two more alchemical store-rooms. The loaded up more alchemical gear for Ash and also took a large sheaf of papers bearing alchemical formulae and experimental notes such as:

Subject 213: Progressing well, scars healing. Unable to talk yet.
Subject 214: Died when treated, failed again…

At the final dead end of the hall, they found another teleporter, with a similar large iron door next to it. Behind the doors, they found a large room filled with four massive (ten foot tall and four foot diameter) glass vats, filled with the same black sludge as the river. A large pipe ran up out of the floor, and branched, pumping the sludge into the vats.

Mel walked up and drummed on one vat, causing a strange, six-armed lizardman-like creature to appear in the sludge, throwing itself against the sides of the vat. They looked around and decided to leave through the teleported, determining that the pollutants must be coming from a lower level. But not before Mel suddenly started spouting random syllables a strange, hissing language.

They waited as Mel tried to carry out a conversation with the thing in the tank, which seemed to be speaking directly into her mind and somehow unable to distinguish between her thoughts and its own. The things message was very direct, "Let me out, " though it seemed unable to articulate anything much more useful than that.

Eventually Mel agreed to leave the thing in the vat to its own devices and stepped through the teleporter with the others…

Maze-4.JPGMeanwhile…Ash finished resting with the strange, ratty-clothed old man, and rose to leave. After a few pleasantries and some more warnings about the spider-monster, Ash grabbed his wand and marched off…in the direction of said spider-creature.

After winding through a series of switchbacks, he came to a ‘T’ intersection. To the left her heard the scrabbling of insectile feet, to the right he saw a pile of human excrement in a bend in the passage. He went…right…towards the excrement, and stopped to examine it (guessing correctly that the runny stuff was the end result of the old man’s porridge).

Ash continued on down the right-hand passage for a ways, navigating another switchback then heard the spider-thing’s feet clicking on the stones behind him. He ran on ahead, to a four-way intersection and hid around a corner. Only to have a trio of magic-missiles come streaking after him.

He blocked these with a shield spell, then stepped out to unleash a lightning bolt at the thing which had been following him—which looked like the upper torso of a dark-skinned elf joined at the waist, centaur-like, with a giant spider. The thing took the lightning bolt full in the chest, then retreated back around the corner at the far end of the hall.

Ash, again, gave pursuit, rounding the corner to see….nothing.

Then a blast of cold struck him in the chest, knocking the air from his lungs, and the spider-thing appeared out of thin air. Ash retaliated with yet another lightning bolt, only to be knocked down by another blast of cold.

Ash was frozen from the waist down, barely able to breathe, and could feel the hypothermia setting in as the spider thing closed in, drawing a blade for the kill. With frost-bitten fingers, Ash weakly raised the point of his wand and, through chattering teeth said what he thought would be his last words…“Lightningbolt!”

The drider was blown to bits by the third bolt, splattering charred spider-ichor all over the walls of the passage.

Only then did Ash allow himself to lapse into unconsciousness.

Traithe, Mel, and Grimnir appeared in yet another passage. Kevorkian, Megri, and Ginger were nowhere to be seen. Shrugging at being divided yet again, the three followed the passage to the right, until it dead-ended, then backtracked and took the left, then the next right-most passage.

Maze-8.JPGAfter many twists and turns, they smelled the tell-tale scent of ozone and scorched hair and came to an archway opening on their right. Past the archway, they saw signs of a struggle—chipped and dented walls at either end of the passage, streaks of blacked stone on the walls, and a pool of blood at one end. Traithe identified the larger blood-stain as belonging to Ash, and smaller drips as belonging to the minotaur that Grimnir had so recently dispatched.

Maze-3.JPGThey followed the trail, hoping to find Ash, and stepped through the teleporter that they found at the end. This time appearing in largish room that opened into a twisting corridor. They took a LEFT this time (violating all their well-established navigational plans) and, after many twists and turns of the corridor, saw a flash as they were walking, and found themselves back at the top of the stairs they had visited not so long ago.

They rushed down the stairs and proceeded to the far teleporter by which they had first left this level minutes ago. This time they reappeared at the end of a long corridor which, with no intersections or distractions, ended at a secret door with yet another set of stairs leading down.

Maze-6.JPGAt the bottom of the stairs, they found another large iron door, this one with a small eye-slit at a height of about eight feet. Melastasya approached the door and a deep voice said “What is the password?” She blurted out a few random things, all of which were not the password. Finally the door opened and the four well-armed ogres behind it informed the party that they were “supposed to hit anyone who didn’t speak the password.”

One blow of the first ogre’s sword sent Melastasya flying halfway back up the stairs. And one blast of Grimnir’s eldritch fury sent the sword-wielding ogre flying backwards to sprawl on top of his fellows. Traithe followed up with a witchbolt.

Seeing that Mel and company were not advancing, another ogre calmly closed and barred the door. This did nothing to help poor ‘Fred’, who lay jerking on the ground for a good minute after Traithe’s witchbolt had electrocuted him. Finally Mel walked up and knocked on the door, bringing a similar response of “What’s the password?” from the not-very-bright ogres. When the ogres opened the door again to crush the people giving the incorrect pass phrase, Grimnir called forth a crown of jagged metal on the head of the lead ogre, driving it mad and causing it to turn on its allies.

Maze-7.JPGAs two of the ogres fought amonst themselves, Mel dashed into the guardroom and through an open archway on the right. There she saw a massive chamber, with a huge (10 foot diameter or more) clear pipe filled with the black sludge rising from the center of the floor. Numerous smaller pipes snaked off of the main one in every direction, and all about the room were valves, gauges, petcocks, handwheels and other examples of arcane plumbing. Standing in front of the massive pipe, apparently oblivious to the melee behind him, was an old, decrepit looking man in tattered robes, holding a bowl of porridge and mumbling to himself about how “everything was going well.”

One ogre managed to disengage from the intra-ogre melee and leveled a massive, loaded crossbow (more a balista actually) at Grimnir and Traithe as they stepped into the guardroom. Only to be hurled out through the archway, tumbling over and become entangled with Mel, by another of Grimnir’s repelling blasts.

Meanwhile, Ash awakened to find the old man standing over him. The worst of Ash’s wounds had been healed and the rest of him had been thawed out. The old man offered Ash a bowl of porridge and informed him that they “were being invaded,” but that “everything was going well.” Ash tried, unsuccessfully to get the man to clarify. Finally the man offered to show Ash and offered him a hand. Ash accepted…

…and appeared standing beside the old man staring up at a giant pipe flowing with black sludge, as Melastasya wrestled with an ogre on the ground behind them.

Mel clung tightly to the ogre’s leg, punching several times up into its groin. Grimnir commanded the ogre wearing his crown of madness to tackle its opponent, allowing Grimnir and Traithe to run into the main room past the melee. Grimnir then blasted the ogre that was entangled with Mel with yet another repelling blast. The ogre’s head was blown clean from its body, the ogre’s crossbow went off shattering one of the pipes and spilling black sludge onto the ground, and Mel and the ogre’s body went sliding across the floor towards the old man, who casually leaped over it without looking back.

Ash suggested to the old man that they should put a stop to whatever was going on with the pipes, which apparently raised the man’s ire. The old man leveled a spoon at Ash, transforming him into a Half-orc.

Grimnir, Traithe, and Mel ganged up on the old man and beat him to a pulp.

Once recovered from his sudden transformation, Ash levitated Grimnir up to mend the busted pipe. Grimnir managed to seal the leak, but not before getting a face-full of the black sludge, causing his already aged joints to lock up and giving him a sudden, very serious, fear of lizards.

Traithe pointed to a number of doors on the far side of the room and suggested they check them out next…

To be continued…

The Third Party: Session 9 (GMs notes)
In which the party learns why there were not many people living near the old library...

23 Marpenoth

After returning from Bugbear-hunting, the party finds Kryptgarten in a state of disarray. A large crowd of orcs, xvarts, and other unsavory creatures are massed outside of the skeleton of what should one day be Melastasya’s tavern. The peasants, had, naturally holed themselves up in the keep. Mel took control, handing out drinks in exchange for the wooden tokens she had distributed, and recruiting ash and Grimnir to start making more mead.

Ash and Grimnir had more success than might have been imagined in making their booze. Mixing Grimnir’s blood and saliva with the honey to be fermented, Ash managed to produce a passable batch of Kvas, the Mead of Poetry. Soon all of the rowdy orcs crowding around the makeshift building began spouting poetry with the best of them. For the sake of our poor listeners ears, we will not make record of orcish poetry, other than to say it usually involves yelling “Eba!” often and loudly.

Over the next few weeks, the weather got quickly colder, dropping to the 30’s and staying there. As the people of Kryptgarten brought in the last, late harvest and made preparations for the winter, and the construction of the tavern/festhaus/casino finished, Melastasya and Grimnir began setting up a stock exchange, mostly to cover their illegal gambling activities with the veneer of legitimate business investment. For now, at least, all bets and prices are recorded in chalk on the back-wall of the tavern’s common room—and heavily guarded.

Mel and Ash then made some time to head to the Public Training Hall.

Queue training montage!

9 Uktar

After a couple of weeks of studying and shadow-boxing, Ash approached the party and requested that they aid him in an “academic expotition” (“Expedition, silly old Bear. It’s got an ‘x’ in it”), asking them to aid him in investigating the old Library in the ruined section of town. Mel, suspecting from the Council proclamations requesting any and all documents about Phlan’s history that any items taken out of the Library might be contraband (in addition to some conspiracy theories about Markos collecting all such documents in order to control the narrative about the city), said they should leave immediately and pre-arranged for three identical (well-guarded) carriages to pick them up early the next day outside the library (for reasons lost to most sensible people).

So, Melastasya, Ash, Grimnir, Traith, and Kevorkian (a Kryptgarten Cultist who had recently been elevated from the ranks) headed for the ruins post-haste. Between their recent victories over the bugbears, kobolds, and hobgoblins, as well as Mel’s odd form of diplomacy (handing out free booze and encouraging the monsters to make wagers about how long the city will stay standing), they encountered no resistance as they made their way through the slums and into the Old City.

The Library of Mendor was a huge, square, brick structure, a few blocks west of Kuto’s Well. Being aware of the catacombs linking the city’s wells that were so often used by the various criminal organizations in town, and that Kuto’s Well in particular was used by the bandits that had attacked the keep, Melastasya insisted that they should check the well out—on a hunch that there might be a secret, subterranean way into the library.

Grimnir tied a rope to Mel and tossed her down the well, not too gently, where she found a slightly-ajar, not-so-secret door. The other climbed down the ladder after her. They found that the catacombs had been recently and quite thoroughly ransacked. They poked at some dead giant lizards, a dead old, orc-lady, and a few previously-sprung traps, then gave up. But not before Melastasya managed to poison herself—whether from examining the contents of the lizard’s stomachs or from tasting a week-old pot of cold tea is not clear.

Climbing back out of the well, they headed for the Library. Mel managed to pick the ancient lock on the front doors, which looked like it had not been used in a century, and Traith hauled the big doors open. Inside they found an open-air atrium with an old, overgrown scholar’s garden, complete with an algae covered pond. Mel, of course, stuck her hand in the pond and ended up with her arm covered in green slime.

Traith reacted quickly, as the slime began eating away at her flesh and muscles, cutting off the offending limb with his greatsword. Grimnir summoned hellfire to heat up a spare blade he was carrying and carefully scraped the flesh-eating slime from the severed limb. Kevorkian took the limb, now just a mass of scarred tissue—free of all flesh and much of the muscle, and magically re-attached the arm. Luckily the nerve tissue in the arm was severely damaged and cauterized, and thus Mel did not feel much pain coming from her useless and necrotic limb.

That folly over with, they headed into the library proper, going first into the binders and illuminator’s carrels. Ash’s sword, Blackflame, flared up, warning them of undead present. They collected a few sheets of gold leaf, noted that the exterior wall had been breached at one point (and showed the muddy tracks of some large reptilian creature having entered the library recently), and then turned to the nearest door.

They opened the door into a old store-room, filled with dry inkpots, long-molded paper, crumbling tools, brittle quills, split-handled brushes, and five very emaciated-looking kobolds. The little creatures cowered in fear from the well-armed party, chattering in their own high-pitched language. Mel tossed them a pack of trail rations, which they tore into with gusto. Grimnir tried talking to them in draconic and several other tongues, to no avail, then shouted ‘Bree-Yark’, which sent them charging out of the room and out the open hole in the wall.

The party shrugged and headed towards the Scribe’s Hall. Here, they found a wild-eyed, gray-haired man hiding in a corner, curled in a fetal position and howling obscenities. Grimnir attempted to calm the man, only to have the man start screaming nonsense such as: “He is wrapped in fire and so cruel!" or “The big one, the evil one in the castle of flowers—he is coming, it is coming!,” or "Don’t go there! Don’t go on the hill!” and “He is not human, I tell you, not at all.”

Melastasya offered the man some meat, which caused him to leap at her, attempting to chew on the roasted and exposed muscles of her left arm. Mel punched him with her good hand, sending him sprawling to the ground where he returned to his former obscenity-screaming fetal state.

Traith left the man to his ravings and opened the door into the old Master Scribe’s apartments. Traith found an interesting looking Exercise Manual, which he pocketed. They proceeded on, past a trio of reading rooms, in one of which they found a still readable scroll containing a hundred-year-old recipe for Leek Soup.

Then they turned a corner into the stacks. A long, wide room, with 8 twenty-foot-long bookcases protruding from the walls out into the center, four to a side. The first two were labeled ‘Philosophy’, the next ‘Rhetoric’, the third ‘Mathematics’, and finally ‘History’. Kevorkian ran excitedly towards the ‘Rhetoric’ section, then froze as soon as he looked down the isle between the bookcases. He stood as still as a stone statue—as that was in fact what he had become.

Traith pointed to the muddy, reptilian footprints, which lead from the hole in the wall to hear and shouted the warning, “Basilisk!” Calling forth his magical greatsword.

Grimnir carefully reached around the corner and placed a mirror in Kevorkian’s outstretched and petrified hand, using it to sight the massive brown-scaled beast. He just barely avoided it’s reflected gaze, and blasted it with a witch bolt, a swarm of soul-eating crows flying around the corner between Grimnir and the beast.

Mel blindfolded herself and charged around the corner, following the sounds of its angry bellows and kicking blindly at the thing. The basilisk caught her calf in its jaws, swung the girl sideways into a bookcase, then to the ground, then pinned the one-armed pugilist beneath its bulk, continuing to gnaw on the trapped leg.

Grimnir continued his magical assault and Traith rushed in, eyes averted, and swung at the beast, but failed to connect. It was at this time that Ash and Traith noticed a strange red-haired woman also standing in the stacks, nonchalantly perusing the Mathematics section. The woman, hereafter referred to as ‘Ginger’, nodded to the adventurers, grabbed a very large, heavy oaken staff and smacked the basilisk over the head. Ash, pulled off his cloak and teleported over the creatures head, partly obscuring the things eyes with his cloak as he fell.

Taking the brief respite offered by the coordinated attack, Mel, still pinned beneath the creature, worked her good arm free and lashed out as best she could at the things midsection, punching it several times near what she imagined were the thing’s kidneys. Enraged, the basilisk rolled over, attempting to crush the annoying gypsy-girl, much as a crocodile would. The thing rolled and rolled, Mel clinging tightly to its underside and rolling with it, finally crashing into a bookcase, sending a rain of dust and moldering old books down on top of it, then ceased moving.

Grimnir and Traith took a few more swings at the basilisk for good measure. Ash then reached under the cloak and carefully cut the eyes out, shoving them in a pouch for future study.

A quick detect magic found a pair of scrolls bearing prayers of Greater Restoration buried in the stacks. Ginger was kind enough to use one of them to restore Kevorkian1. Kevorkian patched everyone up as best he could with his remaining magic, then they all set to work, spending 8 hours collecting all the intact books they could find.

Traith and Kevorkian, opened the last door at the end of the stacks, into the Master Librarian’s chambers. The room contained rotting furniture, including a desk and chair in which sat the skeletal remains of the librarian, hunched over a single, green leather tome. Kevorkian stabbed the skeleton, causing it to collapse into a pile of dust, and went to retrieve the book. On glancing at it though, he was immediately struck blind, his eyes sublimating in their sockets. Grimnir gingerly reached in and snapped the book closed before anyone else could look, handing it off to Ash, who stuffed it in his pack.

Cave_Books.jpgThey backtracked to main entrance, the one-armed Melastasya leading the blind Kevorkian. Just as they were opening the door to leave, a spirit, looking like a ghostly maiden made from scraps of parchment, appeared before them, blocking their egress. The mere sight of the thing turned Melastasya’s hair white, literally. Mel, Grimnir, and Ginger were instantly aged 40 years—jumping the teenager strait to menopause and turning the demonic lordling into a wizened old man.

Interpreting the thing’s appearance and aging of his friends as hostile, Traith blasted the thing with a thunderous orb of power. Ash followed up with a bolt of lightning, and Mel tossed the Wicked Sisters at it. All of which seemed to do nothing to the apparition—though the lightning bolt did succeeding in blasting open the doors.

Kevorkian asked what they had done to offend the ‘Ghost’, to which it replied that they had not checked out the books. Grimnir and Traith conjured illusory library cards, which only served to elicit a banshee-like wail from the undead librarian, and the sudden tearing of Ginger’s pack, out of which tumbled a book titled She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled, which fell open and produced a pair of real wolves from its pages.

Grimnir dove, nearly breaking a hip, and unleashed a repelling blast up towards the apparition, launching it up through the ceiling. The party then made a dash for it, running out the doors, pursued by wolves, to where the carriages were waiting. All six of them jumped into the second carriage (Mel reminding them several times that the other two were decoys) and road into New Phaln by a highly circuitous route.

They made their way to the Temple of Tyr, where they were informed that only the Bishop was likely to be able to perform the necessary miracles to restore Mel’s arm, Kevorkian’s eyes, or everyone to their proper ages. Grimnir began drafting a formal request to Bishop Braccio, while Ash took the Testament of Jade to one of the temple law scribes (hoping that someone of confirmed lawful goodness would be able to read it without danger) asking for the scribe to peruse and summarize the tome for him.

1 These scrolls were written into the original 2nd-edition adventure. Interestingly though, Restoration spells did not cure Petrification in that edition. The party’s ability to save the cleric in this instance was a convenient (and slightly surprising) side effect of the edition change.